The Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved a resolution, Tuesday, to present the Prince William County School Board with $10.675 million to help fund the PRICE model prototype for the county’s 13th high school to be built in Bristow.
The resolution states that if the PRICE [Patriot Redesign Increase Capacity Effectively] model is approved, the supervisors would look to appropriate an additional $10.675 million to the school division to be used for site acquisition costs, renovations [such as annexes], or the building of new schools on the eastern end of the county.
The vote passed 5-3. Supervisors Jeanine Lawson (R-Brentsville), Pete Candland (R-Brentsville), Ruth Anderson (R-Occoquan) Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge) and Chairman At-large Corey Stewart (R) approved the resolution.
Supervisors Marty Nohe (R-Coles), John Jenkins (D-Neabsco) and Maureen Caddigan (R-Potomac) voted against it.
The deal is contingent upon approval from the school board. Legally, the Board of County Supervisors cannot dictate how the school board chooses to spend school division money.
With the plea to help districts on both sides of the county, Candland and Lawson also advocated strongly for the PRICE model, saying it would meet the board’s goal of reducing school overcrowding. Additionally, it would be the most affordable option to seat an additional 500 students.
“I’m hopeful with this resolution. This is probably the closest we’ve come as a Board of County Supervisors for trying to address in somewhat of a comprehensive way the overcapacity we have in the high schools on the west end and in the elementary schools in the eastern end,” Candland said. “I hope we could use some of the inertia.”
Candland and Lawson worked with Principi to broker the deal, finding out what he needed for his district. Principi explained that the eastern districts of Woodbridge, Occoquan, Potomac and Neabsco need elementary schools and school sites.
David Cline, Associate Superintend for Prince William County Schools, explained that with less land available, site acquisition costs have increased dramatically. The school division is currently looking to build a “Parkway School” but they will also need other schools in coming years.
Supervisor Principi questioned Cline as to the price of the schools. Cline explained that the cost per building is $75.5 million for the Battlefield prototype or $86.075 for the PRICE model. However, there are other costs involved including site acquisition and building road extensions.
Road extensions could cost approximately $24 million and Cline said he is hoping the school division could have another discussion about the board assisting with those costs.
School Board Vice Chairwoman Lilly Jessie expressed her displeasure with the proposed resolution. She told Lawson that not accepting the Stone Haven proffers left some significant road and site costs to be covered by the school division.
Jessie said her goal is to get elementary students out of the trailers, especially since many of those children are impoverished and are without parent who advocate on their behalf. She also said that while her children are in trailers elementary schools in the west are under-capacity.
Jessie was not swayed by the proposed additional of $10.6 million for eastern schools, and said Woodbridge school board member Loree Williams also plans to reject the offer.
However, Principi, of Woodbridge, firmly supported for the resolution. He wanted to make certain the wording ensured the additional $10.6 million would be spent on the eastern end. While he noted the money is “a drop in the budget,” he said he wanted to make the deal in the interest of “coming together.”
The supervisors have not decided whether to provide the money in one or two lump sums or parcel them out to pay for debt service. However, supervisors cannot guarantee that the next board would continue to supply the money based upon their promise. Lawson suggested that perhaps they could take funds from the capital improvement reserves, which would be expedient.
Some supervisors voiced concerns about providing the funding without knowing if there would be a moderate tax increase next year to help fund such debt services. Principi took the opposite approached, agreeing to the resolution, perhaps with an eye towards finding common ground with more conservative board members.
There were other objections as well. Caddigan, who once served on the school board, said she did not want to usurp any power from that board and wished both boards had met to discuss the resolution together, but an expedient meeting was not possible in December, and delaying a decision would result in further costs for the school division.
According to the resolution, receiving money for the eastern end schools would be contingent upon the school board approving the PRICE model.
However, the supervisors may still choose to provide the school board $2 million towards site acquisition for an eastern elementary school since that had been considered before the introduction of the PRICE model resolution.
© 2016, Stacy Shaw. All rights reserved.