Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Board likely to reconsider new Blacksburg High School
A new Blacksburg High School is back on the table as a zero-interest loan deadline nears.
CHRISTIANSBURG -- Time is running out for what Montgomery County's administrator thinks is the best bet to help finance any repair, renovation or rebuilding of Blacksburg High School.
Yet, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors tonight is likely to take up for a second time a $124 million request to build a new Blacksburg High, a new Auburn High School, and renovate the current Auburn High. Supervisors Chairwoman Annette Perkins said it would be added to the board's meeting agenda, which is set for 7:15 tonight.
Tuesday, the supervisors and school board failed to reach a consensus about how to proceed with the school, closed since the Feb. 13 collapse of the gymnasium roof.
The officials, absent John Muffo, sat down for their third meeting in nine months.
The hope of some, as well as residents sitting on the floor and along the wall, was that the board would reach a decision on whether to repair, renovate or rebuild the school. Instead, the discussions, centering on financing options, cost estimates and the impact of the old Blacksburg Middle School, didn't reach a resolution.
"I think we've done as much as we can with the numbers crunching," school board Chairman Wendell Jones said.
He said he's concerned the county will miss out on low- or zero-interest loans.
Since the gymnasium's collapse, cost estimates to repair the building have escalated. Last week, school officials said getting the school up to code would take more than $22 million because more work is needed to complete a list of requirements compiled by Blacksburg's building official, Cathy Cook.
Supervisor Gary Creed suggested the county challenge Cook.
School officials have estimated that it would cost about $57 million to build a new school. They've also thrown out a full renovation of the school, which could take about $42 million on the low end.
In September, the school board approved the $124 million request to fund all three school projects. Supervisors, who hold the purse strings, bypassed that and told the school board to look at repairing Blacksburg High.
At least three supervisors -- Creed, Doug Marrs and Bill Brown -- maintained that thinking Tuesday, saying they needed to weigh the tax on all lower-income constituents.
If the supervisors don't approve the resolution, the school board will have to create a new resolution to request funding for their capital projects, and they could miss next week's deadlines.
Craig Meadows, the county's administrator, suggested that Qualified School Construction Bonds would be the county's best bet to help offset some of the cost.
However, county and school officials would need to get applications in by Nov. 19 for the bonds, which are zero-percent loans. Projects are capped at $15 million.
The bonds aren't the only money pot. The county already has about $8 million in surplus that could be used. And other avenues would be considered.
Either way the county goes, taxes will need to be raised. Officials have said the three needed projects could mean a 12-cent increase to real estate property taxes per $100 of assessed value, which would be phased in over time.