Fairfax County school officials propose to move most of the district's administrative workers from offices across the county into a new Falls Church office complex, a consolidation they say would save about $5 million in the next 30 years.
Under the plan, the school district would purchase an office building on Gatehouse Road in Merrifield for an estimated $39.8 million. The district also would buy an adjacent parcel for about $6 million and build an identical building for about $43.9 million.
More than 1,300 school employees from nine school-owned administrative buildings and four leased offices ultimately would work in the new complex, officials said. The School Board is scheduled to decide tomorrow whether to buy the building, a purchase that also would require approval of the county Board of Supervisors.
County staff members said the project probably would be paid for with bonds issued by the county's Economic Development Authority. Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale said the debt would be paid with money that has been used to lease office space, savings from the travel budget and funds that would have been used to renovate and maintain existing administration buildings, many of which are decades old.
Dale said the staff would be more efficient working in one location, adding that time and money are spent shuttling from office to office. He said the move also would mean eliminating about 40 staff positions over a five-year period because fewer clerical, administrative and janitorial employees would be needed. No employees would be laid off, Dale said, but the district would not fill the positions of some workers who retire or resign.
"This makes excellent sense from both a business perspective and a human resources perspective," Dale said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said school officials will have to convince the board that the consolidation would produce savings that eventually would mean more money for new schools.
"They are going to have to make the case that this would streamline the system, add efficiency and actually save dollars that would be freed up to get more kids into classrooms," Connolly said. "If they can prove that, I think the board will be receptive."
School Board Chairman Kathy L. Smith (Sully) said the plan is the start of the board's effort to "take a long, hard look" at spending and search for ways to put more of the district's money into classrooms. School Board members have not decided what would become of the current administrative buildings, Smith said. Some are former schools that could again be used for classrooms. The district also could build new schools on the land or sell the sites.
Smith said that if any of the buildings are sold, all revenue would go to fund school construction or renovation.
School officials said the consolidation would save the district in the long run. Under current arrangements, the district would pay about $165 million over 33 years to operate the existing buildings, including telecommunications costs, anticipated repairs and lease payments, according to school staff. Staff members said the district would spend about $160 million to buy the Gatehouse site, build a second building and maintain them over the same period.
If the plan is approved, school officials said they expect that the district would buy the Gatehouse Road building early next year and that the first employees would move in in August. Construction of the second building would begin in 2007 and would be completed by 2009.
School officials did not reveal the identity of the owner of the Gatehouse building and adjacent land but said the purchase price had been agreed upon.
The plan calls for employees from the Burkholder Center in Fairfax, Devonshire Center in Falls Church, Lacey Center in Annandale, Human Resources Center in Springfield and some leased office space to move into the existing Gatehouse building. People who work in buildings including the Sprague Technology Center in Annandale and Leis Center in Falls Church would move to the second building.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.