Transportation and expanding elementary schools are among the top capital priorities picked by Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors and School Board during a joint meeting Tuesday.
The two boards met for two hours and culled a list of nearly 20 projects to 10. The priorities on which they had a consensus were matching funds for transportation projects, economic development funding for public-private partnerships, water quality improvements and repairing the county’s drainage infrastructure. Additionally, they supported the school division’s plans to expand Crozet and Cale elementaries, as well as the technology replacement program.
“We know that was really hard,” said Maya Kumazawa, the director of budget and planning for the school division. “I think we are impressed with what we have. Now we have something tangible to move forward.”
A retooled CIP Advisory Committee — made up two supervisors and two School Board members along with a planning commissioner and community member — will take those priorities along with directives from previous meetings to develop a combined five-year Capital Improvement Program proposal.
At a previous joint meeting, supervisors and School Board members indicated that they would support an additional $55 million in capital projects over the next five years, which would require an estimated 4.5- to 6-cent increase to the tax rate over that time period.
The division’s Long-Range Planning Advisory Committee has recommended $180 million in maintenance and school construction projects over the next five years. Combined with the supervisors’ projects, the CIP requests total $238.7 million.
County budget director Lori Allshouse said the advisory committee will craft the CIP with those funding parameters in mind.
The two boards will meet again in November to discuss the CIP.
Before Tuesday’s joint meeting, Allshouse gave the elected officials a homework assignment to help them pick their top 10 projects out of the requested 30 projects. The assignment included nine projects from the general government’s CIP request and nine from the division’s long-range planning annual report, as well as a section to write in a different project.
Board of Supervisors and School Board members split up into three groups during Tuesday’s meeting to make another top 10 list before they presented their priorities to the larger group.
“I hope that we will be able to look at the school division priorities and the Board of Supervisors priorities from under a big umbrella and not stay focused on just our world, so to speak,” Jack Jouett Supervisor Diantha McKeel said.
She pointed to the county’s $25 million transportation request as an example. That money would go toward planning and matching other grants.
“If we think about some of us, about how we can work better together and synergize our projects together for the biggest bang for both our organizations, I think we will be more successful with our CIP,” she said.
This CIP process has been much smoother than two years ago when the supervisors and School Board went back and forth over the schools’ CIP request. They wanted $96 million for several projects over a five-year period. Ultimately, the schools received $5.4 million in fiscal year 2019 and $47 million in fiscal year 2020.
This is the first year of a new process for developing the CIP, which has included more conversations between the supervisors and School Board members and occurred earlier in the budget process.
School Board Chairman Jonno Alcaro said he wished the two boards had been doing that for the last several years.
“You know what is so delightful is sitting here and thinking that, in past years, we never had these kinds of conversations, these two boards, about these projects before going into the CIP season,” Scottsville Supervisor Rick Randolph said. “It never happened. It’s so wonderful to get your perspective and very different views on the priorities.”