Supervisors approve resolution requesting bond referendum

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted, 4-2, to approve a resolution requesting that the circuit court authorize a special election in November for a bond referendum.

The $35 million bond referendum would fund Albemarle County school improvements across the division. In a separate vote, the board added the projects to the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan, the official document that lays out Albemarle’s plan for building projects.

The vote was the last in a series of votes and work sessions on the referendum held over the spring.

“Basically, we have been talking about this since May pretty intensely,” said Lori Allshouse, county budget director. “For today, we are asking you to formally adopt the resolution for the CIP and to formally adopt the resolution for the special election.”

Supervisors Rick Randolph and Brad Sheffield voted against the resolution. Citing rules that do not allow elected officials or county employees to advocate for or against the referendum in an official capacity, neither agreed to comment Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Sheffield expressed concerns that the bond referendum’s biggest component, a $15.2 million, 300-student addition to Woodbrook Elementary School, would be a short-term solution to looming overcrowding in northern Albemarle.

Sheffield instead asked county officials to consider building a new school.

On Wednesday, supervisors limited their comments to questions about the mechanics of the referendum.

Assistant County Executive Lee Catlin said last week that county staff and elected officials may only state their opinions on the referendum if they clearly say it is their personal opinion and they are not actingin an official capacity.

“You have to be off the clock and not using county resources if you are acting in any sort of advocacy role,” she told Charlottesville Tomorrow.

The Wednesday resolution included the ballot question wording, which mentions $35 million “to finance the costs of improvements to Albemarle County public schools including designing, building, expanding, and renovating school properties, including new buildings and additions, renovations, and improvements,” but it does not mention specific projects.

The list of projects includes the Woodbrook addition, $10.9 million for division-wide classroom modernization, $6 million to build three additional science classrooms and renovate another seven at Western Albemarle High School and $2.9 million for security improvements at Baker-Butler Elementary.

If the referendum is successful, it will require a real estate tax hike in 2018 to cover the increased debt service, said Lori Allshouse, the county’s budget director.

Supervisors decided June 1 to move $500,000 for high school planning from the bond referendum list to the regular CIP and to make general reference to the total bond referendum request, not the specific project list.

The June vote put $100,000 in the fiscal year 2017-18 CIP and $400,000 in FY2018-19 to look at whether to expand Albemarle High School or add an entirely new school to the division.

The last county bond referendum was in 1974 to finance the construction of Western Albemarle High School in Crozet. The measure passed by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.