On March 22, Board of Supervisors Chairman Martha Hooker sent a letter to the Roanoke County School Board, explaining the stand of board members on construction of the proposed Career and Technical Education Center (to replace BCAT), as well as requested renovations at W. E. Cundiff and Glen Cove Elementary Schools.
Vinton’s representative to the School Board, Tim Greenway, responded to the Board of Supervisors letter in an email to the Vinton Messenger that evening.
This afternoon, on March 23, Chairman Martha Hooker and her fellow supervisors responded to Greenway’s comments.
Greenway’s original comments are written in regular, non-bold print. The Board of Supervisor responses are in bold-faced type.
Greenway: “I’m hoping party politics will not win over doing what is right for kids in Roanoke County. Two elementary schools in two communities are the true losers (one of which is in the Vinton District), as well as all of Roanoke County citizens losing because the Board of Supervisors will not fully fund the three projects.”
“They want us to start CTE at the expense of the two elementary schools. A high price for the Vinton and Catawba communities to pay when the BOS could do the right thing and put off the Hollins library to fund the two elementary schools now.”
Board of Supervisors: The School Board identified a new CTE facility as its top priority in their FY 2023 Capital Improvement Program which was adopted in July 2022. They also adopted their FY2024 CIP on January 19, 2023, with a new CTE facility as its top priority.
The School Board has reiterated a new CTE facility is a priority because the current Burton Center has to turn away students due to capacity issues. Both boards appointed in 2021 a CTE Citizen Advisory Committee to advise them regarding the size, site, and potential incorporation of solar technology relating to the construction of a new CTE center. After nearly a year, the committee presented their recommendations, which was the basis for the Schools purchasing 28-acres of land for $4.1 million to build the new facility.
Greenway: “Both schools [Cundiff and Glen Cove] are in dire need of being renovated to help facilitate learning. According to a past State Superintendent these two elementary schools may be the last two “open concept” elementary schools in the State of Virginia.”
Board of Supervisors: The Board of Supervisors is fully aware of the issues at these two elementary schools and agrees there is a need for renovations. That is why the County Board has offered to provide additional capital funding that can be utilized for these renovations. The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors continues to be willing to work with the School Board to develop a path forward to fund changes at these schools.
Greenway: “We need $21 million to complete the two elementary schools and the CTE facility. We started this process over four years ago and couldn’t convince the BOS until early last year that the CTE center was a project they needed for economic development (obviously jobs haven’t been important in the last decade).”
Board of Supervisors: We are working collaboratively to find solutions and offered the School Board resources to make that happen. Based on the critical capital needs that Roanoke County Schools identified, County staff developed a plan that was reviewed during a joint meeting with the County Board and School Board on December 7, 2022.
An MOU was approved at the County Board meeting on December 13, 2022. This plan provided for:
- Issuance of $80 million in capital debt in FY 2025.
- Increasing the annual borrowing from $17 million to $20 million beginning in FY 2027.
- Additionally, this plan provided $2 million of County cash to facilitate the improvement of the “open classroom” spaces at WE Cundiff and Glen Cove Elementary schools.
On February 8, 2023 the County received feedback from the Schools on the MOU approved in December.
The suggested changes included:
- Additions to the background section of the MOU and other minor edits.
- A request of additional debt capacity of $21 million in FY 2025.
Roanoke County staff worked with County Schools staff to receive additional information regarding the suggested changes and to better understand the school capital priorities.
During the March 14, 2023, Board of Supervisors meeting, staff gave a presentation on a revised funding proposal which includes $138 million of bonding capacity over two years which is the largest amount since the inception of the joint County/School capital program.
The proposal includes:
- Provides RCPS with $104 million of new and/or accelerated bonding capacity plus $2 million in cash
- $20 million advanced from FY 2027 to FY 2026
- $21 million of additional borrowing with debt service paid by RCPS (debt service approximately $1.4 million annually for 20 years-includes step-in provision)
- $63 million of additional borrowing outside of the 10-year plan funding by the joint capital funding plan
- Combined with planned borrowing, this give RCPS a total of $138 million in bonding capacity over the next two fiscal years plus $2 million in cash for a total of $140 million for CTE and other school capital priorities.
- Specifies the County Board priority for the new CTE facility.
Other provisions to the MOU include:
- County to provide up to $2 million funding from capital reserves to improve open classroom conditions at Glen Cove Elementary and W.E. Cundiff Elementary.
- Reaffirms the Roanoke County Board’s commitment to performing a demographic study to inform future capital project decision making.
- Schools will apply for grant funding for CTE and other priorities.
Greenway: “Can you imagine the savings if we had started the building process four years ago ($93 million may have been $65-70 million).”
Board of Supervisors: Four years ago in the FY2020 School CIP, CTE was not even listed as a priority project and Glen Cove and W. E. Cundiff were the lowest two priorities listed.
Greenway: “The obvious educational benefit of CTE to our children and students is an alternative to college, to be ready to enter the work force out of high school, and in trades needed to sustain our local economy.”
Board of Supervisors: Yes, sustaining our local economy is critical. This is why both Boards have agreed that CTE is a priority. Our business community has shared their desires for well-trained students to enter the workforce immediately. A new CTE facility would expand the programs offered, provide more opportunities for students and meet the needs of our business community.
Greenway: “Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors place a higher importance on saving $12 million in surplus last year, approximately the same or higher surplus this year, building another library for $18 million and other unidentified projects for $30 million (per the last CIP document we were given).”
Board of Supervisors: Both Roanoke County and the Roanoke County schools budget conservatively and routinely have funds remaining at the end of each budget year. These funds are used primarily to fund the beginning balance and capital for both organizations. RCPS has historically been allowed to keep their year end balances. Today, 2/3 of capital funding is made available to RCPS.
Roanoke County’s next planned project is the Hollins Library. The $30 million mentioned is for capital improvements to our Fire and Rescue stations as is reflected in the FY24 CIP presented to the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors in February. A comprehensive study of the Fire and Rescue system is currently underway to ensure that these funds are utilized as efficiently as possible.
Greenway: “The BOS obviously believe they know more about the educational needs and facilities than the school board. I’m not sure why we need elected school boards in Roanoke County if the BOS will be dictating our Capital Needs.”
Compiled by Debbie Adams, Vinton Messenger