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Commonwealth's Counties

VACo School Construction Financing Bill Tabled Without Public Testimony

In the early dawn light of January 27, and without taking public testimony, the members of House Finance Subcommittee #3 voted 5-3 to lay HB 2316 (Bourne) on the table, effectively ending the chances for the bill’s passage. As previously reported, this bill would permit any county or city to impose an additional local sales and use tax of up to 1 percent, if initiated by a resolution of the local governing body and approved by voters at a local referendum. The revenues of such a local tax would be used solely for capital projects for the construction or renovation of schools. Any tax imposed shall expire when the costs for capital projects are to be repaid and shall not be more than 20 years after the date of the resolution passed.

Currently, this authority is limited to the qualifying localities of Charlotte, Gloucester, Halifax, Henry, Mecklenburg, Northampton, Patrick, and Pittsylvania Counties and the City of Danville. HB 2316 is a recommendation of the Commission on School Construction and Modernization. An identical bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support. The Senate companion and a similar bill, SB 1287 (Deeds), which expands this authority to Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, will likely head to the House Finance Subcommittee #3 as well. A standalone bill expanding this authority for Prince Edward County, HB 1605 (Edmunds), has yet to have been heard in committee. A similar bill expanding this authority to the City of Newport News was also tabled by a similar vote.

VACo supports expanding this local authority and when given the opportunity has testified in committee to that effect. Despite historic investments last session, the issue of school construction and modernization remains an approximately $25 billion issue that many localities struggle to address. The action of this subcommittee marks a disappointing, if not unsurprising end to a chapter of efforts to empower local governments with additional tools to ensure that no student in the Commonwealth of Virginia must attend a school with a leaky roof, a faulty HVAC system, or one that is older than their grandparents. Since this bill was first presented to the General Assembly last year to the current date, there has been zero public testimony or comment against these bills. The only meaningful opposition comes from a small subset of legislators who have prevented this bill from advancing to the full House of Delegates.

VACo thanks its members for their continued advocacy on this issue and for contacting legislators serving on this committee to support these bills once they are heard in subcommittee. A video recording of the meeting may be watched here. The relevant portion of the meeting begins at the 7:48am timestamp.

VACo will continue to advocate for this legislation and for other efforts to provide additional tools and financing for school construction and modernization.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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