New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | October 30, 2020

New Kent supervisors agree to borrow up to $26 million for construction of new elementary school

By Andre Jones | September 30, 2020 9:34 am

New Kent’s Board of Supervisors approved entering into a bonding pool to assist with the borrowing of money for construction of a new elementary school.

County leaders approved entering into Virginia Public School Authority’s (VPSA) bond agreement to borrow up to $26 million at the Wednesday morning work session.

County Administrator Rodney Hathaway proposed a resolution through VPSA 2020 bond sale agreement not to exceed $26 million. In the original agreement made, that amount was not to exceed $37 million. According to Hathaway, the total project for the new elementary school cost will be $34.6 million.

Davenport and Associates financial representative Ted Cole told county leaders that he expects $22.35 million will be the amount needed to borrow for the new school. He also commented that the county plans to contribute money already saved and dedicated to the project through previous pennies from taxes designated specifically for the project. The $26 million cap will allow for flexibility for any associated costs and act as a safety net.

At the center of the agreement was the amount of money the board of supervisors would commit to as part of assisting to build the new elementary school. During an Aug. 31 joint work session with school board members, county leaders and school board leaders debated passionately about the amount of money to be contributed to the project. During that dialogue, District 5 Supervisor John Lockwood commented that schools in Chesterfield similar in size to the one proposed for New Kent cost roughly $24-26 million through his research. Representatives of Mosely Engineering responded to the supervisor’s comments, saying that some companies build prototype schools. District 5 and school board chairwoman Gail Hardinge chimed in that meeting by saying that community involvement was received when conceptualizing the project and capping the project at a certain dollar amount would hamper those projects.

Board of Supervisors’ Chairwoman Patricia Paige commented at the work session would like to see the school board negotiate a lower cost, pointing to construction costs at an all-time low in comparison to when the contract was originally approved. Under state law, only the school board can negotiate costs with the developer and not the board of supervisors.

Hathaway said at the work session that he believed up to $35 million could be borrowed without the county seeing a tax increase. With that information and the directive of the board, Hathaway worked with school leadership through dialogue and arrived at the $26 million mark.

“We have had a lot of growth in the county for the last 15-16 years,” commented District 1 supervisor Thomas Evelyn. “Eight years ago, that project was $28 million.

“Inflation from 2016-2020 would be over $1.1 million,” he continued. “When schools got their first price of $38 million, I know both boards were both shocked. Both boards have worked together to get the cost down. Did everybody get what they wanted? No.

“But at the end of the day, we have to do what we need to do what’s the best for students and citizens of this New Kent County,” Evelyn concluded.

Evelyn also praised the school’s cooperation of tough decisions made by school leaders to cut the auxiliary gymnasium for the project and also have a one-time contribution instead of a contribution over two years.

District 4 Supervisor Ron Stiers, who made the recommendation to postpone the project, talked about the process since March.

“We each met individually with school board representatives [in their respective district] and to get this project done without raising taxes was one of my main goals,” he commented.

“I don’t think there isn’t one member of this board of supervisors who didn’t support the construction of this school,” said District 3 representative and Chairwoman Patricia Paige. “Our goal was to construct this building without bringing a hardship to the citizens of this county.”

With comments out the way, county leadership approved the new resolution for the borrowing of the money unanimously.