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September 15, 2017

Supervisors: Renovate Warrenton Middle School

The supervisors say they would borrow up to $27.5 million to renovate and slightly expand Warrenton Middle School to accommodate 800 students.
I’m still questioning some of the numbers and some of the contingencies.
— School board Chairman Brian Gorg
Two Aging Schools
> Taylor Middle

• Where: 350 E. Shirley Ave.

• Built: 1951, with addition in 1981.

• Enrollment: 443

• Capacity: 547

• Building: 93,000 square feet.

• Acres: 12

• Parking spaces: 58

> Warrenton Middle

• Where: 244 Waterloo St.

• Built: 1934, with addition in 1981.

• Enrollment: 417

• Capacity: 545

• Building: 94,000 square feet.

• Acres: 18

• Parking spaces: 103
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Fauquier’s board of supervisors has agreed to fund expansion and renovation of Warrenton Middle School — but not construction of a replacement.

In an unusual proposal, the supervisors have conditioned their funding for the $33-million project on reuse of Taylor Middle School and the sale of other publicly-owned property.

Chairman Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run District) talked individually with his four colleagues over the last week — finally reaching a majority consensus Thursday afternoon between a series of meetings on other topics — to hammer out a formal proposal for the county school board.

Mr. Gerhardt said it required members of his board to “compromise” divergent positions.

He emailed a letter (at bottom of this story) detailing the supervisors’ position to school board Chairman Brian Gorg (Center) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The two-page letter says a board of supervisors majority would:

• Agree to fund the $33-million WMS expansion/renovation without a referendum.

• Raise the debt limit for the project to $27.5 million and would help the school board “cash fund” the remaining $5.5 million.

• Require, after consolidation with WMS, Taylor Middle School’s reuse to house Head Start and other community programs. The school board also could choose to move the Southeastern Alternative education program there from Midland.

• Require sale of the Warrenton Community Center, adjacent property and, possibly, Southeastern Alternative School to help pay down the project’s debt.

If the school board rejects the proposal, the supervisors would allow a $33-million bond referendum question for the WMS project to go before voters.

The supervisors and school board have debated options for Warrenton’s two aging middle schools since February. The two board’s conducted three, sometimes-contentious joint meetings on the topic — in February, March and the final one last Thursday, Sept. 7.

During that last meeting, school board members pushed for a clear answer and made another pitch for construction of a new, $45-million structure for 800 students on the Taylor campus along East Shirley Avenue.

The supervisors unanimously oppose that option.

“Basically, I tried to take everyone’s position into consideration,” Mr. Gerhardt said of discussions with his board members that produced Thursday’s letter.

The other supervisors said the chairman came up with the requirements to sell what would become surplus public property.

“I don’t want to be in the real estate business,” Mr. Gerhardt said. “We need to get rid of some excess property.”

Supervisor Chris Butler (Lee), who had advocated a referendum for any project, made the most significant compromise to support the letter. Mr. Butler also agreed to raise the threshold for a referendum from $25 million — a change he had opposed.

“It sounds like a good plan to me,” Mr. Butler said Thursday night.

Of the five supervisors, only Holder Trumbo (Scott) remains opposed to the referendum policy change.

“I was against that,” said Mr. Trumbo, who believes voters should have more say about whether taxes rise to fund expensive capital projects. “I don’t think they (the supervisors) should be increasing that limit.

“If you’re going to go more than $25 million, go to the voters. Why would you be afraid of the voters?”

“If it’s more than $25 million, you’ve got to face the voters. That’s what I was after.”

Chris Granger (Center) and Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall) favored borrowing up to $30 million without voter approval. They agreed to the lower amount.

“To get it done, I supported” $27.5 million, “because, in the end, it is less debt service,” Mr. Granger said. “My goal is to get one of the schools remodeled.”

Like her fellow supervisors, Ms. McDaniel has expressed opposition to a more expensive middle school project — including construction of a new building — since February. Too many other county projects need attention and funding, she said again Thursday night.

As of June 30, the county had $74.6 million worth of outstanding debt for school construction projects.

School board Chairman Gorg said Friday morning that his colleagues will have lots of questions about the unusual proposal — especially the provision calling for the sale of property to help pay debt.

“I’m still questioning some of the numbers and some of the contingencies,” he said.

It still remains uncertain how much money the supervisors would provide versus how much would come from the school system’s operating budget and the sale of land behind the Warrenton Community Center and, potentially, Southeastern Alternative School near Midland, Mr. Gorg said.

“I think the school board still needs to know what money we’re working with,” he added.

Some citizens might perceive the proposal as the supervisors’ attempt to control the project, the school board chairman suggested.

But, he regards it as a “business” proposal.

Mr. Gorg said he more than any other school board member could support the plan.

“I’m interested in looking to see what we could do with $33 million,” but his board could decide it doesn’t represent the most cost-effective solution.

“I suspect we’re all in different places,” Mr. Gorg said of the five school board members.

The school board will discuss the proposal during a work session at 6 p.m. Monday at Fauquier High School.

BOS to School Bd 9 14 17 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Extended Middle Schools Modernization Study 080417 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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