New Kent County Administrator proposes $5 million in new debt for historic high school project

NEW KENT – Although New Kent County Administrator Rodney Hathaway is proposing the county take on an additional $5 million in debt to fund the historic high school renovation project, he does not expect any tax increases in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015.

According to Hathaway, if approved by the Board of Supervisors, the county could spend $12,679,034 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Capital Improvement Projects (CIP), a total which includes $5 million in new debt.

The total $8.5 million historic high school project, which would turn the 1930s and 1950s school into a new elementary school, is partly funded in cash.

Last year, Supervisors adopted a 4-cent increase in real estate taxes, half of which was set aside for the debt service on the remaining $5 million for the project.

Assuming the county enters into a 20-year loan on the $5 million, the annual principal and interest (P&I) would cost $351,805, which would be covered by half of the FY14 tax increase.

"The P&I would be covered by the FY2014 approved increases, so we're not anticipating any tax increases in FY2015," Hathaway said in a phone interview last month.

Although the School Board has predicted that the renovated elementary school could cost taxpayers an additional $1.3 million in yearly operational costs, the school is expected to open in fall 2015, and would not impact the FY2015 budget, Hathaway said.

Hathaway is also proposing that the county approve a large project in FY2016 - $6.9 million for a new public safety radio system, which would result in $4.3 million in additional debt.

The $4.3 million figure on the public safety radio system is contingent upon whether the county receives $1.6 million in federal and state grants. Assuming the county gets a 10-year loan on $4.3 million, the P&I would total approximately $517,038, which would most likely result in a "minor tax increase" for FY16, Hathaway said.

Aside from the historic school project, Hathaway is proposing that the county fund financial software, park development, fire engines, and vehicle replacements, for a total of $16,979,034, in the FY15 CIP.

Hathaway proposes paying for the projects by using $3.66 million in cash reserves, $3.45 million in federal grants, and $566,102 in state grants.

The proposed FY15-19 CIP reflects 18 long-term projects that total $12,349,500, including:

•A $6.82 million renovation to New Kent Elementary School

•$2.36 million in technology that would equip each high school student with a Chromebook and establish a building-wide wireless access.

•$2.16 million in school bus replacements (on a 15-year cycle).

Hathaway is also proposing $2,850,824 for Public Utility projects, which include: adding microwave communication antennas, a water system study, utility mapping and updates, ground level storage tank maintenance and repairs, water system energy audit, computers, and work on the Route 249 waterline project.

The New Kent County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the FY15-19 CIP on Monday, March 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the county administration building.

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.