Fauquier County supervisors made it clear Thursday that they are in favor of making Taylor Middle School the centerpiece of the long-discussed middle school renovation/expansion project.
At a Feb. 13 work session, Supervisor Chris Granger (Center District) spoke at length in favor of renovating and expanding Taylor Middle School. Holder Trumbo (Scott District) and Chris Butler (Cedar Run District) concurred with Granger’s outline, which would make construction at Taylor a priority after the renovation and expansion of Cedar Lee Middle School. The Bealeton school construction is slated to move forward imminently and would add 300 seats to the school, making room for students who currently attend Taylor but who live closer to Cedar Lee.
Under this plan, Taylor Middle School, once renovated, would become the sole middle school in town. Warrenton Middle School would be repurposed for other school division needs.
School board members had wanted to include expansion – by up to 300 seats -- of Auburn Middle School in New Baltimore in the plan, but supervisors would like to see that project put on hold for now.
Granger said that he is “completely open” to an expansion of Auburn Middle School, either concurrently or soon after the construction at Taylor. Granger proposed that the school board explore the possibility of seeking a single construction contract for both Taylor and Auburn in a bid to reduce overall costs.
Citing Taylor’s historical significance – the building served as the county’s first black high school – Granger said that choosing to renovate Taylor instead of Warrenton may not be the least expensive option, but that the community largely supported preserving Taylor as an educational institution. “A number of constituents I represent would be willing to pay for that,” he said.
School board chair Duke Bland (Marshall), who answered questions from the supervisors, was largely amenable to the proposal. He cautioned that without expanding Auburn it would be necessary to add more capacity at Taylor than had been discussed previously. “I want to make sure you understand that without an Auburn component you are looking at 800 seats at Taylor,” he said. “We need a minimum of 718 seats.”
Bland said he would discuss the proposal with the school board. “We’ll put this on the fast track,” he told the supervisors. School board member Susan Pauling (Center District) said after the session that she was generally in favor of the proposal. Prioritizing the Taylor project over the Auburn expansion “is the way to go,” she said.
According to data presented by Fauquier finance director John Munch, the combined cost of the proposed projects at Cedar Lee, Taylor and Auburn would be about $68.9 million. The annual debt service cost, assuming the projects were 90% funded by debt, would reach about $4.6 million by FY 2025, with a $0.041 impact on the tax rate.
Removing the Auburn expansion project from the plan would reduce the overall price tag by about $9.9 million.
Supervisors seemed eager to reach consensus soon. Granger said that the board would like to decide on a proposal next month.
Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall District) did not reveal which proposal she would support but said that whichever proposal the board decides to fund, it is important to move past this question quickly to deal with other matters. “Getting this issue nailed down is probably the single biggest impediment to what we’re trying to deal with” moving into the budget season, she said.