Loudoun County voters have agreed to take on more than $100 million in new debt for schools, community centers, a park and a performing arts center. They approved two bond proposals in Tuesday's elections -- the one on school projects by one of the largest margins ever.
County voters have approved bonds for school projects for the past 13 years, and this year more than 71 percent agreed that the county should take on $92.6 million in debt for schools. The proposal was defeated in only one precinct, Between the Hills in Neersville in western Loudoun, where 233 ballots were cast. Residents there have a history of rejecting such spending requests.
Projects include building an elementary school in Brambleton and a middle school in the Dulles-Ashburn area, renovating the county's four older middle schools and the 51-year-old Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, and buying land for future schools. The elementary school is scheduled to open in 2006 and the middle school a year later.
Deputy Superintendent Ned D. Waterhouse said school administrators viewed the results as an indication that residents think the school system is moving in the right direction, especially considering that more than 100,000 people voted in this year's election.
"We really recognize that we're very lucky to be in a community that values public education at the level these folks do," Waterhouse said.
He said the results show that residents favor the twin goals of keeping pace with the county's growth and renovating older schools so they can offer resources comparable to those in new buildings.
By a slimmer majority -- about 56 percent -- voters approved a proposal authorizing the county to take on $15.43 million in debt to build a community center in Dulles South, complete a performing arts center in Purcellville, renovate the Loudoun Valley Community Center and buy land for a park in Lovettsville.
Supporters of all four projects worked round-the-clock to promote the initiative and get out the vote. Beth Wilson, president of Friends of Franklin Park Arts Center, was among more than 100 volunteers who helped stuff envelopes, pass out fliers and put up posters throughout Election Day.
"What it means to Loudoun County is that we will be getting the dedicated arts center we have been working on for eight years," said Wilson, adding that supporters hope to have the center open by Labor Day 2006.
The bonds will also fund improvements to Loudoun Valley Community Center's electrical, heating and cooling systems and fire alarm. The parking lot will be repaved, and the interior will be completely remodeled, including modernizing the restrooms, repainting the walls and making the building accessible to disabled individuals.
Funds to begin the project are not scheduled to become available until July.
Loudoun Valley Community Center is a former school building and one of eight county-owned centers that have been relying on routine maintenance as short-term fixes rather than getting much needed repairs, according to Bruce McGranahan, manager of facilities, planning and development for Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services.
"It starts to cost more to keep patching it up than to start new," said McGranahan, who said he expected the design process to take six months and construction about a year. "It is our hope that over the coming decade we will be able to refurbish all eight [centers]."
The Dulles Multipurpose Center will be a 23,900-square-foot building in South Riding and eventually replace nearby Arcola Community Center. Approval of another bond proposal would be needed to complete an expansion, including two swimming pools and a fitness center.
The park in Lovettsville will be operated jointly by the town and the county. Both will help plan and construct the recreational area over the next several years.
Voters at eight of 52 precincts rejected the public facilities proposal, four of them in Sterling. Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) wrote in an e-mail to supporters that voters there were "sending a strong signal for supervisors to stop spending recklessly."
"This new $15 million for non-school government monuments to non-essential services was repudiated by an outraged majority who rejected the faulty reasoning of the elitist Western Loudoun mob!" he wrote.