Voters in three Northern Virginia school districts approved millions of dollars that will go toward building new schools and renovating facilities, which officials say is necessary to ease overcrowding and replace outdated infrastructure.
Bond referendums totaling more than $515 million were approved easily by voters in Fairfax County, the city of Falls Church and Loudoun County on Tuesday night.
In Fairfax, where more than 44 percent of public schools exceed capacity, voters approved a $315 million bond issue. Of that, $28.4 million will go toward constructing a new elementary school in the northwest part of the county and $1.3 million would go toward planning for another in the Oakton area.
As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, 73 percent of voters in Fairfax, with all but two precincts reporting, supported the bond issue.
Upgrades to schools would reduce the number of classroom trailers in the school district from 975 to 650, Jeff Platenberg, assistant superintendent for facilities and transportation told The Washington Post last week.
In Falls Church, money from a $120 million bond issue will go toward replacing George Mason High School. The school is overcrowded, forcing students into spaces that weren’t intended for classroom use. The school is also beset with an aged roof and heating and air conditioning system.
The Falls Church referendum received 64 percent of voter support.
City officials are planning for the property tax rate, which is currently $1.33 per $100 of assessed value, to increase by 4 cents. Any property tax change would be proposed as part of the city’s budgeting process, city spokeswoman Susan Finarelli said in an email.
Superintendent Peter Noonan said last week that tax increases would be offset somewhat in later years when 10 acres of land designated for development is sold or leased.
The Falls Church bond referendum was not roundly supported. Resident Mark Kaye said George Mason is in need of renovation but feels the price tag officials have put on a new high school is far too high. And Kaye cautioned that the district is expecting money from development that may not come to fruition.
“It’s very speculative – we have no idea if the developers want to develop that land,” he said. “They’ve made a lot of financial assumptions about how much money they’re going to get from leased development.”
Seventy-four percent of voters approved the $81.8 million referendum in Loudoun. The bulk of the bond money would finance projects at the C.S. Monroe Technology Center and the Douglass School, an alternative school.
Monroe would become the district’s alternative school and house space for English-language learners and offices. Programs at Monroe would shift to the Academies of Loudoun, which is set to open next fall, and Douglass would be repurposed for office space.
Electrical, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning updates would also be carried out at both schools. Money would also be spent on security improvements and new school buses.