Fairfax Deal To Transfer School Land To County

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 28, 2006

The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously last night to turn over a dozen unneeded school-owned properties to the county in return for a $150 million boost in bond funding for construction and building maintenance over the next six years.

School officials said the deal will allow the system to keep up with renovations and the addition of schools, projects that might have been delayed because of rising construction costs.

"This has brought us to a spot that will be advantageous to our children, to our schools and to the taxpayers of Fairfax County," said School Board member Jane K. Strauss (Dranesville).

Two of the parcels include buildings that the school system has used. The Belle Willard and Burkholder centers, both in Fairfax City, housed administrative staff members who are moving to the new administrative center in Merrifield. The other land is undeveloped or is being used as parks, school officials said.

The County Board of Supervisors will decide whether to sell the properties, maintain them as parkland or use them for other county needs. If the supervisors decide to sell any of the parcels, public hearings will be held, county officials said.

Dean Tistadt, chief operating officer for facilities and transportation services, said the system bought most of the property over the years as possible sites for schools. But because the county is largely built-out and student enrollment has leveled off, officials determined that new schools won't be needed in those neighborhoods.

"We still may need land in the western part of the county where there's growth," Tistadt said.

In return for the land, the county has agreed to increase bond funding for the school system's capital budget by $25 million a year for six years.

School spending on capital projects had been capped at $130 million, but with the cost of cement, steel and labor on the rise, officials had worried that long-planned projects would be delayed. Officials estimated that it will cost $146 million a year to stay on the system's construction schedule.

The money from the transfer will allow the system to complete planned projects and consider adding funding for other capital needs such as space for full-day kindergarten classes.

The properties include 60 acres on Baron Cameron Avenue in Reston that has sports fields operated by the county Park Authority and 24 acres of open land adjacent to the Spring Hill Recreation Center in McLean, Tistadt said. In all, the board voted to transfer nearly 189 acres.

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