New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | February 22, 2019

Winter storm damage prompts Charles City schools to ask for additional $1 million for 2018-19 CIP

By Andre Jones | February 6, 2018 10:54 pm

With a facility and complex that is 26 years old, Charles City’s school board and staff had been addressing maintenance needs with temporary “band-aid” fixes until more funding became available. But when a devastating snowstorm over the winter break caused significant damage that closed schools for an additional ten days, that band-aid is now more like emergency surgery.

Charles City’s School Board went into deep discussion as part of their Tuesday night public hearing and budget work session. After an hour of discussion on Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the board reached the conclusion that several critical items of the schools needed to be addressed immediately.

The result of dialogue is expected to be a request for an additional $1 million in funding for the schools FY2018-19 CIP from the county. In earlier budget proposals, the schools were tentatively scheduled to receive $1.3 million, but with several HVAC units, pipes, and other problems, school board members listened as superintendent of schools David Gaston laid the foundation regarding the issues.

“The issue we are facing has reached the critical point,” the superintendent said. “Our [HVAC] systems have failed, and they are outdated. Whenever we do have to fix them, it is very difficult to find the parts and it is also costly.

“Right now, it’s prioritizing what the school needs to function,” Gaston continued. “At this point we are just sticking a band-aid on it.”

The additional $1 million would be focused on replacing HVAC units and electrical components with the system. The school board’s dialogue revealed that more than $500,000 in projects were withheld from last year’s CIP at the request of county leaders. But now, school leaders hope that the county’s board of supervisors will assist them.

At-large member Steve Fuhrmann commented about recent discussion around the possibility of energy savings through service agreements.

“I want to request that the schools and county enter into a contract, so we can have a savings in cost through energy efficiency,” he said. “The savings are guaranteed by the company and the Commonwealth [of Virginia].

“It may take some time to see those savings, but we need our funding partners to see that it will pay off in the long run,” Fuhrmann concluded.

District 1 representative and school board chairwoman Helen Payne-Jones echoed the sentiment of seeing money savings through the proposed energy efficiency agreement. Payne-Jones also commented that recent events have prompted the need for the ask.

“We need to replace 25-year old units and we needed to do it yesterday,” she said.

Other topics of discussion centered around the 2018-19 CIP and operating budget included the revamp of the entire plumbing system in the school buildings, proposed raises, and salary scale adjustments.