Perhaps it didn’t start in 2012, but the results of the Fauquier High School renovation project sure became apparent in 2012. Now we can see how the actions of our supervisors, school board and school superintendent came together to solve a problem but ended up giving us a new problem.
Nobody doubted the need to renovate our 50-year-old high school. Superintendent Jonathan. Lewis had developed a comprehensive plan. It would cost $63 million and the centerpiece was a brand-new four-story classroom building estimated to cost $25 million.
On the other side was the board of supervisors. Their position was the county could only afford $25 million. They came together and worked out an agreement. The county would contribute $24 million, and the school would come up with $8.8 million from its existing budget. The total cost would be $32.8 million.
My first question was how accurate was the school board’s estimate if they agreed to do the renovation for less than $25 million when their own estimate was $63 million?
My second question was what was removed from the renovation?
In fact, almost everything was removed except the four-story classroom building.
In my opinion, the school board dearly wanted that award-winning building and was willing to give up almost anything to get it. Was anybody interested in our children’s education?
Then I started thinking why would our supervisors agree to a plan that provided money only for a new classroom building?
Again, in my opinion, the only thing the supervisors were interested in was limiting spending. Was anybody interested in our children’s education?
The supervisors never questioned how the renovation would be completed when such an expensive building was part of the plan. They indicated the planning and execution was the responsibility of the school system.
During 2012, it became apparent the new classroom building would be completed on budget ($26 million), but the few additional items in the plan could not be accomplished with the remaining funds.
The supervisor/school board liaison committee recommended the supervisors provide an additional $4 million for the renovation.
To do this, the agreement has to be modified.
The agreement has strict rules on where additional money would come from. So the supervisors held a public comment meeting on Thursday in order to consider a change to the agreement.
What the supervisors plan to do is change the agreement to allow for a one-time increase of $4.1 million in funding. They would then go back to the original agreement that allows additional funding only from school budget funds.
This limited funding increase is only to cover the very limited list of renovation items covered in the agreement. The school’s own “needs and wants” list still shows more than $15 million in items for the FHS renovation.
Who is looking out for our children’s education?
If this one-time increase in funding is approved, I think it will give a majority of the supervisors an excuse not to consider any more funding. They will say “We have done our part. The school must do with what it has.”
In 2012, we have seen cutbacks in school programs – teachers, adult education and sports, to name some.
I believe much of that occurred because the school took $8.8 million out of its budget so it could get its cherished award-winning classroom building.
The supervisors seem concerned only with keeping the budget down.
Is anyone interested in our children’s education?
It appears our elected boards were more interested in their own agendas than in the real problem of renovating FHS.
My solution is to stop the merry-go-round and find out what is completed and what remains to be done in order to complete the renovation of the entire school. Then the hard part -- how would we pay for it?
In order for our political system to work, citizens must be involved.