School Construction and Maintenance Financing Legislation Encounters Mixed Fortunes

February 16, 2021

As previously reported, several pieces of legislation seeking to address K-12 school construction and maintenance needs are making their way through the General Assembly.

On February 15, SB 1106 (Stanley), which creates the Public School Assistance Fund and Program to be administered by the Department of Education for the purpose of providing grants to school boards to be used solely for the purpose of repairing or replacing the roofs, HVAC, electrical or plumbing systems of public elementary and secondary school buildings in the local school division, was reported and referred to the House Appropriations Committee, 21-1. VACo staff has spoken in support of this bill, though the Fund proposed by this legislation currently does not have dedicated source of funding. In the House, similar legislation – HB 2093 (O’Quinn) – was referred to the House Appropriations Committee, but was left in Committee without being voted on.

SB 1109 (Stanley) 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 the issuance of such bonds. The bill provides that the referendum be held at the November 2022 general election. The bill was reported and referred to the House Appropriations Committee by the House Privileges and Elections Committee, 21-1, on February 10.

Disappointingly, on February 16, legislation that would empower Isle of Wight County to impose an additional local sales and use tax of 1 percent if approved by voter referendum, the revenues of which would be obligated solely for capital projects for the construction or renovation of schools in the County, was tabled by the House Finance Committee’s Subcommittee #1. SB 1170 (Norment) would have extended to Isle of Wight County revenue raising authority currently enjoyed by nine localities and pioneered in 2019 by Halifax County. VACo staff spoke in support of the bill, but unfortunately the Subcommittee chose to recommend laying the bill on the table, 7-4. Subcommittee discussion acknowledged the need facing many localities for new and diversified revenue sources for school capital needs, however, the majority opted to table the bill with a commitment to examine the statewide issue as part of potential broader tax reform in a future session.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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