FCPS Requesting $252.75 Million in Bond Referendum

Passage would add to the $232.58 million approved by voters in 2009.

Fairfax County voters are faced with a $252.75 million dollar decision. 

Included on the Nov. 8 general election ballot is a school bond referendum to fund Fairfax County Public School's 2012-16 Capital Improvement Program (CIP).

Each year Fairfax County Public Schools develops a five-year CIP to address future facility needs, including renovations of existing facilities and building of new facilities. 

According to Denise James, director of Facilities Planning Services for FCPS, unfinished projects from previous CIP’s are carried over into the new one.

“The CIP includes a cash flow of expenditures on projections over the next five years, and then anticipates expenditures in the 'out years' – i.e., over the subsequent 6-10 year period, for planning purposes,” she wrote in an email to Burke Patch. “However, FCPS must stay within an annual cash-flow limit of $155 million, established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.”

“The CIP includes all needed projects, some of which are funded and some of which are not,” James said. “The current CIP -- and all CIPs for that matter -- are predicated on the assumption that school bonds will continue to be approved by the voters in the future.”

Bond passage places the projects listed in the referendum in the queue with all other unfinished projects.

Capital improvements of Fairfax County schools are not funded through the school system’s operating budget (2.2 billion for FY 2011), but through the sale of bonds. FCPS said bonds are similar to a home mortgage, in that they are a type of long-term borrowing which spreads the cost over a number of years.  Voters must approve bond sales because they require future debt.

The Fairfax County School Board voted in January 2011 to approve the FY 2012-16 (CIP) totaling $804.9 million. According to a school board press release, $199.4 million of that amount was already funded with previously approved school bonds. The 2011 School Bond Referendum is for $252.75 million, leaving an outstanding balance of $352.75 million.

“The remainder of the funding will come from future bond sales,” James said.

Since 1999, Fairfax County voters have passed six school bonds totaling $1,809,875,000 (almost $1.81 billion).

  • In 1999 for $ 297,205,000
  • In 2001 for $ 377,955,000
  • In 2003 for $ 290,610,000
  • In 2005 for $ 246,325,000
  • In 2007 for $ 365,200,000
  • In 2009 for $ 232,580,000

Passage does not guarantee funding for completion of projects.

“Some projects are shown in the bond as planning only and some for planning and construction,” James said. “For those that are shown as for planning only — a future bond would need to be approved to fund construction.”

Even with the passage of these bond referendums, Fairfax County schools are years behind in renovations and construction. There is a backlog of projects.

For example, Spartans Organized for Action on Renovation (SOAR) is a community effort to secure needed funding for the school's renovation. They say the school is in need of renovations, and they want the work completed earlier than 2019, as currently scheduled in the CIP.

“Currently FCPS does not fund any CIP funding from their operating budget, although we think this would be a great idea if they would. If there is any available money that could be carved out of the $3+ billion FCPS annual operating budget, we believe the underfunded CIP would be a worthy cause,” said SOAR’s website. West Springfield High School is slated to receive $5.95 million for planning in the 2011 Bond Referendum.

An independent reviewing body establishes the renovation and construction queue. “Ideally, schools should be renovated on a 25-30 year cycle,” said James. But she admits the cycle has been longer. “The time frame for renovations was longer several years ago – up to a 40 year cycle,” she said. 

“When construction costs are high, the number of capital projects that can be completed within a specified time frame is reduced,” she said.  “However, with lower construction costs, more projects can be accommodated more quickly within that $155 million spending limit.”

“At present, we are experiencing lower construction costs, and the cost savings has been applied to other capital projects, which reduces that time frame for schools waiting for renovations,” she said. “This is also reflected in this year’s school bond proposal.”

Even though the Board of Supervisors recently raised the annual capital-improvement spending limit from $130 million to $155 million, some believe it should be increased even more.

"It [the spending limit] leads to the queue getting longer and longer while the buildings get older and older," said a parent at a West Springfield High School PTSA meeting.

That is true of . Built  47 years ago, in 1964-65, . This year's bond includes some $84.62 million for TJ's renovations.

Yet, according to the Thomas Jefferson Partnership Fund, the bond does not include money to equip the specialized research labs at the school. The Partnership Fund estimates the total cost of expansion and equipment to exceed $100 million. They've initiated a capital campaign called TJ 2.0 to raise the additional millions.

Of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties, Fairfax is among only 37 that have the highest credit rating possible for a local government:

  • Aaa from Moody’s Investors Service
  • AAA from Standard & Poor’s
  • AAA rating from Fitch Investors Service

“The sale of bonds and the yearly spending limit is based on County financial guidelines which work to safeguard the County’s AAA bond ratings, and helps ensure County bonds are sold with low interest rates,” James said. 

The county's bond debt is not a contributing factor to local tax increases, unless debt service costs significantly increase as a percentage of combined general fund disbursements. 

Annual bonding debt service interest payments are paid from the Board of Supervisors annual operating budget and not the FCPS annual operating budget. 

According to FCPS, 80 percent of 2012-16 CIP funding is dedicated to renovating existing facilities. Twenty percent is dedicated to new construction and infrastructure upgrades, such as roof replacements; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning upgrades; security enhancements; and technology infrastructure.

Following is the complete list of projects in the 2011 bond referendum.

Capacity Enhancement     (Additions and other modifications)     Fairfax Villa Elementary School   $3,129,294 Greenbriar EastElementary School   $3,889,687 Union Mill Elementary School   $3,419,715 Modular Relocations   $3,250,000 Capacity Enhancement Subtotal:   $13,688,696             Renovation     Elementary School Renovation     Canterbury Woods (Construction)   $14,894,268 Clermont (Planning & Construction) $13,608,872 Sunrise Valley (Planning & Construction) $16,215,447 Garfield (Planning & Construction) $14,158,593 Terra Centre (Planning & Construction) $16,614,596 Westgate (Planning & Construction) $14,221,431 Terraset (Planning) $1,053,799 Haycock (Planning) $960,703 Woodlawn (Planning) $1,189,450 Forestville (Planning) $1,165,000 North Springfield (Planning) $899,000 Springfield Estates(Planning)   $723,444 Keene Mill (Planning) $908,010 Bucknell (Planning) $1,131,776 Elementary School Renovation Subtotal:   $97,744,389       Middle School Renovation     Sandburg (Construction) $44,293,958 Thoreau (Planning) $2,175,000 Middle School Renovation Subtotal:   $46,468,958       High School Renovation     Thomas Jefferson (Construction) $84,625,065 Langley (Planning) $5,650,000 West Springfield (Planning) $5,950,000 High School Renovation Subtotal:   $96,225,065             Infrastructure Management     Technology Upgrades   $4,000,000 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Upgrades   $2,500,000 Roof Replacement   $6,500,000 Athletic Infrastructure   $2,500,000 HVAC Replacement   $7,500,000 Security Enhancements   $1,050,000 Asphalt Paving   $2,125,000 Infrastructure Management Subtotal:   $26,175,000       Project Subtotal   $280,302,107 *Prior Bond Savings   ($29,052,107) Bond Cost   $1,500,000 REFERENDUM TOTAL   $252,750,000


*Amount reflects cost savings realized through lower than anticipated construction costs for previous bond projects

elizabeth Bradsher November 01, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Are we going to discuss bonding? If so I have a comment which might assist with understanding bonding. In order to keep the county's triple A bond rating FCPS can only spend $155 million a year, this includes money from the BOS for capital projects. Money is kept in an account due to the delays of construction which include, weather, permitting, plan development and public feedback required for school renovations. TJ's funding has been kept in an account because that community kept changing plans or probably better said could not agree on the plan submitted, so it took awhile to reach a community consensus regarding renvation plans. I have been working on the CIP for over 11 years. Bonding finances renovations, new schools, additions, etc. Without it as a tool for funding resources our county's schools would be in serious decay and decline.
janet otersen November 01, 2011 at 12:29 AM
Liz, Thanks for being respectful and getting us back on topic. Three questions for you, please: 1. Why did you claim...even in an editorial, that the schools receiving Clifton kids wouldn't need any additions or renovations? 2. Why were we told repeatedly that Soco HS was built with public-private funds at no cost when in fact an EDA bond was issued-debt to Fairfax taxpayers? 3. What is the bond borrowing backlog? In other words if this bond fails and one passes in 2013 will there be any impact on funding the schools waiting for funds for the next 2 years? Thanks.
elizabeth Bradsher November 01, 2011 at 01:22 AM
Janet, Part 1 of my response: Schools receiviing Clifton kids will not need renovations or additions for Clifton students. Oak View and Fairview can handle the load with minor alterations inside of both schools, not sure if Oak View needed any but I do believe some classrooms at Fairview that were used for other programs are now classrooms. As for Union Mill the addition of the Clifton students did not warrant an addition. I was there last week and met with the principal to check on all this. Every classroom at Union Mill is being used and space is being used efficiently ---but no addition. OK---now follow me here, Clifton will get an addition for the transfer of Centreville students to the school in 2013. These students live in the townhouse community which is part of Little Rocky Run. I believed and still do that this community belonged at Union Mill with the rest of the Little Rocky Run community. There removal from Centreville ES assisted with capacity there and I believe another shift for a community closer to Centreville although I need to check my notes on that to be sure.
elizabeth Bradsher November 01, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Part 2: South County was built with the use of a private public partnership. The partners were Clark Construction, Pulte, the Park Authority and of course FCPS. This was a complex arrangement and what made it work was the land, the land was used as a leverage, so to speak. If you look at the SC area it is surrounded by land that 10 years ago was farm fields. This land was worth a pretty penny and there was a land swap that took place with the federal government and FCPS, Pulte was invovled with this. I can go into detail in person as it is very detailed. The payoff of the school is best responded to by FCPS, I do know construction bonds sought by Clark made this deal worthwhile because the interest was less than what FCPS had anticipated and could get. The facility was to be paid in a matter of an arranged time, but my understanding was that financial conditions were very good and FCPS was able to negotiate a favorable agreement which indicated over $18 million dollars was saved (when looking at the projected expense of the facility if built through convential means) via the Private Public Partnership -- this savings was due to the innovative financing. Important to note that not one project on the CIP was ever bumped due to this new construction need. New construction trumps a renovation, South County was built without any impact to the queue, the community worked on this and it was paramount to the success of the arrangement.
elizabeth Bradsher November 01, 2011 at 01:28 AM
Part 3: You can review the bond backlog by looking at the queue in the Capital Improvement Program and then comparing it to what is on this year's bond. If the bond is not passed theses projects will not get funded and all projects currently unfunded and in the queue will get bumped back. There is a good report and I believe it is on line which demonstrates a 10 year capital projection and schools waiting for funding. Therefore if a school is waiting for planning funding and is on this bond for planning funds to be allocated near the end of this cycle, which is about 2013, then this school would not see planning funds till 2015 or 2016 if this bond failed and the next bond passed. That would mean they would see renovation funding, should the 2015 bond pass at 2017/2018. I high school renovation takes about 18 months to 2 years and then there is some residual work after that so the school might not be completed till 2020 or 2021---had the 2011 Bond passed, per your question the school would have been renovated by 2017 or perhaps sooner due to efficiencies in planning, renovation, etc. Note: There is quite a list of ES renovations and of course severely needed HS renovations to include Oakton, Langley, WSHS, Falls Church and Herndon.
Elizabeth Vittori November 01, 2011 at 01:33 AM
So, Mrs. Bradsher, you DO care about about your constituency's opinion? That's great news. Unfortunately, it comes as too little, too late. Citizens need to know that the Board is not in any way required to spend bond money on the renovation projects listed. As my community recently discovered, once the bond is approved, those funds can be spent (or not) on any CIP project at all.
janet otersen November 01, 2011 at 01:37 AM
I get that SOCO HS was not a typical bond deal..it was an EDA bond which is still owed by taxpayers and interest is paid each year out of operating expenses as well as principal repayments. I think it is misleading to say this debt does not impact the queue. As you stated, in order for Fairfax County to maintain our AAA bond rating, we are limited on what we can borrow each year--correct? Given that the EDA bonds are lumped in with the school and county bonds, it does impact what we can borrow.
janet otersen November 01, 2011 at 01:40 AM
The land swap really was just that. We gave up land A, the builder swapped us land B. That does not necessarily translate into savings. Most companies I know don't give land away unless they get something of value in return.
elizabeth Bradsher November 01, 2011 at 01:48 AM
The land swap was indeed a savings and the swap was between the Laurel Hill Site and Mason Neck, in addition, the federal government settled on the land on which SCSS was built for a nominal fee, also something the community worked on to begin the buidling. The South County took the growth in population while a portion of Mason Neck was handed over to the Bureau of Land Management. The debt does not impact the queue because you need to remember SC was at one time on that queue, it was taken off and projects were bumped up---look at the old CIPs. Don't be so quick to find fault, because there really is none in this. There were over 4000 kids at Hayfield, over 30 trailers, and more were coming. The school was needed and the parternship provided a timely resolved that saved money. Bottom line it saved money--- That is if for me Janet. If you want to discuss further we can meet. Just a reminder this blog is about bonding.
Will Radle November 01, 2011 at 01:58 AM
We need to quicken our renovation and modernization of schools. I am the only candidate for Fairfax County Chairman who identified our schools as important infrastructure in the Voters Guide sponsored by the League of Women Voters. The limitation to $155 million is a restriction we can overcome by expanding economic growth and implementing the plan, vetted by state and local budget directors, I presented to the Board of Supervisors on March 29, 2011. Thank you for letting me share. A. Will Radle, Jr. Independent Candidate for Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors FairfaxAdvocates@gmail.com http://YouTube.com/WillRadle1
Mike Kane November 01, 2011 at 03:17 AM
Once again, I will urge all voters to tell their friends and family to vote NO on the bond referendums this year. It's unfair to saddle future residents with this enormous debt amount. If you live in the 41st district please visit www.kanefordelegate.com for more information about my campaign.
elizabeth Bradsher November 01, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Mike, How do you propose then to pay for the renovations of such schools as West Springfield, Oakton, Herndon, Falls Church and Langley. These schools were built in the mid 60s, some are over crowded and need not only renovations but more rooms. What is your answer and don't say cut central office staff, that is not the panacea for capital funding.
Rob Jones November 01, 2011 at 12:16 PM
Take a step back and look at the data being presented in this blog. When did it become reasonable to RENOVATE a school to the tune of $84 million? Has anyone driven by Edison, Woodson or Fairfax high schools in the last 5 years? These buildings are amazing architectural products. Too amazing. The FCPS process for renovating schools is over the top. These are schools, not class A office spaces. Put the necessary technology in the building, make it safe and comfortable. Make sure it won't burn to the ground or flood from a leaky roof. The standards for renovation need to be revisited. 3 years to renovate a school? And yes, there will be students graduating from Edison High School that will have spent only 1 semester out of 8 in a building that didn't look like a war zone. FCPS facilities and finance teams along side of the superintendent should be justifying the scale and scope of these projects, not Board members. Board members should be validating that an eye for fiscal prudence has been applied to projects. A request to revisit the educational specifications for facilities as adopted by the current School Board would be a great place to start. Once that happens and REASONABLE renovation scopes are put forward, perhaps then I'll vote for another bond. But not until then.
elizabeth Bradsher November 01, 2011 at 12:50 PM
As I suspected Mr. ABC. I did look at the scope of renovations for schools and originially suggested the scope be diminshed in some way. This issue was discussed at length among Board members and the communitys that would be impacted . It was agreed and I agreed as well that there was a fairness issue with such a subject matter. Wodson's renovation went to bids at one of the highest and expensive times in the market. Also Woodson's renovation was scaled down due to costs--and decisions were made during the renovation to scale down certain projects. This is not the case at this time, however cost continue to remain closely reviewed. Also, FCPS is incorporating environmental innitiatives into renovation projects. Edison was due a renwal as are the rest of the schools built in the mid 60s, to leave them and their communities with something less and not bring their classrooms up to current ed specs along with core facility needs would be short sighted and lacks a sense of equity for a community awaiting a renovation.
Elizabeth Schultz November 01, 2011 at 03:22 PM
As Mr. Gibson's columns are often vitriolic/defamatory, there is a double standard in Patch. My cross post from Reston Patch (minor edits for space): It is interesting that a person whom I have never formally met, and with whom I have not exchanged so much as five words, believes in the least way he's qualified to speak regarding my candidacy. Had Mr. Gibson proffered that he would be granting endorsements (the very suitability of which is left up to the reader), the interview or survey by which they are typically granted may have been useful had he wished his to have any merit. Those legitimately granting campaign endorsements include: -Governor Bob McDonnell (http://tiny.cc/nirm9 + below endorsements) -Teachers -Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform -Fairfax County Advocates for Public Schools (FairfaxCAPS) -Gary Jones, Joe Gibbs’ Youth for Tomorrow CEO & former Chairman of the Fairfax County School Board; and -Stuart Mendelsohn, former Vice Chairman of the Fairfax County School Board, member of the Board of Supervisors & past Chairman of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. Never personally meeting or speaking to an individual by default means there is no credence in any pontifications made on the manner in which the individual will serve - or has served - the public in an elected capacity, volunteer effort or otherwise. So the public may meritoriously judge for themselves, my testimony is made publicly available here: http://tiny.cc/xkr5a Nov 8th awaits.
HouseofBurke November 01, 2011 at 03:42 PM
“…Clifton Elementary School has 366 students and all students can be moved to successful nearby schools without the necessity of additions or renovations." Liz Bradsher, Fairfax Times link: http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/cms/story.php?id=2343 "there will not be construction loans to fund the proposed additions." FCPS website link, http://www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/southwesternstudy/faq.pdf FCPS' Response to Southwestern Boundary Study Questions, see Page 33, Questions 46 and 47 November Bond: Union Mill Elementary School $3,419,715 Modular Relocations $3,250,000
Marta D. Saltus November 01, 2011 at 03:59 PM
No kidding! Is is even appropriate for a seating public official to pontificate via a column in a local paper? It sounds like campaignig via public and free access to media. Does anyone see that as inappropriate? I certainly do!
Marta D. Saltus November 01, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Quoting here a comment from another School Board article, for everyone's benefit when it comes to fiscal responsibility within the SB: Scott Chronister As most people with children in Fairfax County Public Schools know, education and not politics is the most important thing to ensuring our children are prepared for their futures. While it is true that many people are not familiar with school board candidates, voters do not need to turn to political parties for information on candidates’ views. This year, a number of advocacy groups are playing an important role in educating voters about the importance of the school board election and the candidates. The Fairfax County Coalition of Advocates for Public Schools (FairfaxCAPS) focuses on educational excellence, fiscal responsibility, and accountability in FCPS. FairfaxCAPS is endorsing the following candidates: At-Large: Steve Stuban At-Large: Lolita Mancheno-Smoak At-Large: Sheree Brown-Kaplan Braddock: Megan McLaughlin Dranesville: Louise Epstein Hunter Mill: Nancy Linton Mason: Sandy Evans Mt. Vernon: Michele Nellenbach Providence: Patty Reed Springfield: Elizabeth Schultz Sully: Sheila Ratnam These endorsements are nonpartisan. Candidates endorsed by both parties and independent candidates appear here. For more information about school board candidates and the on the 2011 Fairfax County School Board election, visit www.FairfaxCAPS.org.
Richard Holmquist November 01, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Don't worry, Ms. Bradsher. Some of the anonymous and not-so-anonymous attackers will wither away when their candidates are trounced at the polls next week. Despite the bluster of the vocal minority, most Fairfax County voters are reasonable people who won't vote for single-issue candidates or newcomers -- especially so for Reston. I have to agree with Ms. Saltus when she asks readers to do their homework and vote next Tuesday, but I'm confident that Reston voters will come to the opposite conclusion about which candidates to choose. They'll make a much better decision for the future of our top-notch education system, choosing excellent, talented, reasonable candidates like Ms. Haynes and Mr. Moon. They'll also vote for the bond referandum so we continue to have the funds for capital improvements moving forward. Thanks to the decisions to support these efforts in the past, we have the excellent infrastructure we have today, which supported my own education and now those of my children.
Richard Holmquist November 01, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Correction... Pat HYNES, not Haynes. A current teacher with a law degree who will be an intelligent, reasoned voice for our school system.
Elizabeth Vittori November 01, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Mrs. Bradsher, would you please clarify your statement above? "OK---now follow me here, Clifton will get an addition for the transfer of Centreville students to the school in 2013. These students live in the townhouse community which is part of Little Rocky Run. I believed and still do that this community belonged at Union Mill with the rest of the Little Rocky Run community."
elizabeth Bradsher November 01, 2011 at 07:53 PM
To Ms. Vittori, There is no need to clarify my statement --I believe it is understood. The issue is about bonding not Clifton. I responded to Ms. Otersen in an attempt to clear up misinformation about certain matters.
janet otersen November 01, 2011 at 09:04 PM
I have to respectfully disagree with Ms. Bradsher that Clifton has nothing to do with the bond. Watch the Patch people block me. We were told closing Clifton would save money and that no renovations would be needed. This is incorrect. Portable classrooms and other mods were made to accommodate the transfer of 400 kids-as one would expect in such a huge shift of kids. I am just tired of being lied to. Pimmitt Hills is another example. we were told that we would close the school and save the money (6 million) which was on the CIP and yet, last year, facilities spent $7 million renovating this closed school. Same thing with Graham Road-we shifted the renovation funds to Devonshire-which is fine-same school/community and now we are talking about turning Graham Road into a charter school. If so, won't we need to spend money on renovations? This School Board needs to do a much better job of accounting for this money. We are talking about $150 million per year-no small amount of chump change.
elizabeth Bradsher November 01, 2011 at 11:28 PM
I said in earlier comments the Clifton decision and others had an impact on capital funding. However I have no intention of getting into Clifton community issues. This is about bonding. Yes, the Clifton decision impacted funding for other projects as the school needed a renovation and capital funding would have needed to be allocated for this school. The renovation was unfunded.
Rob Jones November 02, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Wow. Equity from FCPS. Really? Since when did equality come in to play associated with renovating facilities and educating our students? If things were equitable, West Springfield High School would be getting renovated ASAP and others would be waiting because the fair thing to do is renovate that building. If things were equitable, class sizes regardless of where you were located in the county would be nearly identical but alas some schools have classes of 18 while others have over 32 in a class. If things were equitable parts of the county would not have waited years beyond others to get full day K implemented. Please don't pull the equality card here as actions are speaking louder than the written words I'm seeing. Back to the bonding issue as that is the topic we are discussing. Why are grand entrances, architecturally over-appealing exterior touches and general high-end decor needed? How do these contribute to the education of a student? That question should be at the top of mind every time these topics are discussed. I fail to see that what I have witnessed at the schools I noted is a need. It is a want and at this point in our economic lifespan, FCPS can't afford it. Voting no to the bond sends a message that you will be held accountable for the decisions and the funds you are entrusted with as there is no oversight of the School Board other than in the voting booth.
ABC November 02, 2011 at 12:59 AM
It's Ms. ABC, I'm not a Mr.
Mike Kane November 04, 2011 at 11:42 PM
A voucher system would properly allocate students, allowing schools(that are now under private operation) to invest their own money into future infrastructure. Vouchers would also increase educational options, increase quality, and lower overall operating costs.
Sally Spangler November 08, 2011 at 04:49 PM
I have no problem with school bonds - if they stay with structural and not cosmetic, i.e., a wall of windows on the stairs and other fancy work. Those items have nothing to do with the integrity of the school building at all! Assistance to move students about the building, particularly those not able to climb stairs, etc. Elevators would be very helpful. Sound enhancement for the deaf, etc. The school buildings of old of solid brick with useful windows and addition of proper heating and cooling is enough, now.
Mike November 09, 2011 at 11:34 AM
I was wrong. It passed by only 70%!
Private Person November 09, 2011 at 02:08 PM
Sadly that is 21 percent too high.


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