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Commonwealth's Counties

School modernization legislation update

As previously reported, many localities face significant challenges in raising enough funds to undertake capital school construction or renovation projects. According to a 2013 report, more than 40 percent of Virginia’s public school buildings and facilities were built at least 50 years ago and another 20 percent were constructed at least 40 years ago. The condition of the facilities in which children are educated has a direct impact on their ability to learn. VACo supports additional state resources and additional funding options for localities for capital and school construction projects. Several pieces of legislation currently under discussion come from the Senate Local Government Subcommittee on School Facility Modernization’s review of this issue prior to the session:

  • SB 1330 (Stanley) the flagship recommendation from the Subcommittee on School Facility Modernization provides for a statewide referendum on the question of whether the General Assembly shall issue state general obligation bonds in the amount of $3 billion for the purpose of K-12 school building construction, repair, or other capital projects related to the modernization of school facilities. The results would be advisory only and are intended only to demonstrate the preference of the citizens of the Commonwealth on developing such a commission. The referendum would be held at the November 2019 general election. On, January 22, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee rereferred the bill to Senate Finance on a vote of 14-0. On January 30, Senate Finance passed the bill by indefinitely on a 14-2 vote.
  • SB 1331 (Stanley) / HB 2192 (Rush) establishes permissive standards for the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of public school buildings and facilities that allow for a local school division to enter into a lease agreement with a private entity to meet such standards. The bills would also allow for net energy metering for energy produced by on-site solar panels on public school buildings and facilities. VACo collaborated with other stakeholder groups to request that the bills be amended to include permissive language. HB 2192 was reported by House General Laws on January 31 unanimously 21-0. SB 1331 was reported from the Senate Education and Health Committee on January 31 on a 13-1 vote and also reported the same day from Senate Finance, 16-0.
  • SB 1702 (Stanley) creates the Public School Assistance Fund and Program for the purpose of providing grants to school boards to be used solely for the purpose of repairing or replacing the roofs of public elementary and secondary school buildings in the local school division. One of the conclusions reached by the Subcommittee was that many of the problems encountered in older school buildings result from the difficulties of maintaining healthy roofing. The bill permits any school board in the Commonwealth to apply for Program grants but requires the Department of Education to give priority in the award of grants to school boards that demonstrate the greatest need based on the condition of existing school building roofs and the ability to pay for the repair or replacement of such roofs. The bill was reported from Senate Education and Health, Senate Finance, and passed the full Senate, 40-0, on February 4.

VACo Contact: Jeremy Bennett

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