School projects weighed

Published 5:41 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Entire list could add 12 cents to Isle of Wight taxes

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

It could cost Isle of Wight taxpayers up to an additional 12 cents on the real estate tax rate to fully implement the school division’s nearly $78 million long range capital plan — and that amount could be adjusted based on timing and changes to other projects the county already has planned. 

The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors received that assessment last week during its annual retreat from its financial advisor, Jimmy Sanderson with Davenport & Company. 

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Sanderson said the potential tax rate increase depends on when pieces of the plan are implemented and the other projects that the county already has in its capital improvement plan, of which the latter currently total $56 million. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Isle of Wight County’s current real estate tax rate is $.85 cents per $100 in assessed value. 

Prior to Sanderson’s analysis, the Board received a presentation about the school division’s long-range plan, which school officials said the first portion of the plan, renovations to Hardy Elementary School as well as a new bus garage, could add about 3.3 cents to the real estate tax rate. 

Other future components of the plan include building a new elementary school in the northern end of Isle of Wight, renovations to Westside Elementary and a new central office building. 

The overall plan is designed to be implemented over 10 years. 

Isle of Wight County School Board member Kirstin Cook pointed out that the plan is based on unknowns — namely the rate of development in the county, which could stagnate, she said. 

If the development does not occur, a new school may not be necessary and the county ends up just doing the renovations, she said. 

Currently, the school division is estimating an additional 306 students over the next few years, and that is based on the fact that there are more than 2,800 housing units approved, but as yet un-built, in the county.  

Schools spokesperson Lynn Briggs said community meetings revealed that residents did not want trailers, nor did they want students to be rezoned. 

Isle of Wight County schools Executive Director of Budget and Finance Rachel Yates said the community meetings also found that residents wanted equity throughout the county when it comes to school facilities. 

Isle of Wight Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Administration Michael Lombardo said the school division decided to keep rising Hardy fourth graders at Hardy, rather than having them move on to Westside, which alleviated some of the immediate crowding concerns. 

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said he attended school in what is now Westside Elementary and that it smells the same as it did back then — and that wasn’t meant to be a compliment.

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said he attended Hardy Elementary in the early 1960s and the bathrooms don’t seem to have changed since. 

“It should be the same across the board,” said Acree of the condition of the various school buildings in Isle of Wight. 

Hardy and Westside elementary are among the oldest school buildings in the county, but serve the most populous and fastest growing part of Isle of Wight County. 

The supervisors were also concerned that the potential tax increases did not include staff, operational costs or maintenance of the new facilities. 

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice wanted to know how many vacant seats were available county-wide in the schools and if students could be shifted to fill those seats. Grice said he estimated the vacancy rate to be 700 seats, but asked for firm numbers from school officials. 

Residents may not want trailers or rezoning, but “that may not be the real world,” said Grice.

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton said the Hardy renovation and new bus garage, which would add 3.3 cents to the tax rate, would increase capacity by 125 — somewhat short of the looming 306 students predicted by the school division.

Yates said a 3.3 cent tax increase would result in an additional $82.50 a year for a house valued at $250,000 or $99 for a house valued at $300,000. 

Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie said his constituents were concerned with the county’s existing debt burden, which is now $145 million. 

No one wants more taxes, so how does the county pay for this, where is the balance, he asked. 

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said the school’s long range plan will be included in the draft capital improvement plan that initially goes before the Planning Commission — likely in December or January. After the Planning Commission approves the CI, it moves on to the Board of Supervisors as part of the budget process, he said. 

There will be public hearings at both the Planning Commission and Board level before final adoption, which is generally in May, said Robertson. 

Acree stressed that the schools long-range plan was simply that, and could be adjusted as conditions change.  {/mprestriction}