Stafford Supervisors Aren’t Finished Discussing Elementary School 19

The Stafford Board of Supervisors met for a budget work session on Tuesday, March 26.

by Adele Uphaus
MANAGING EDITOR AND CORRESPONDENT

A majority of the Stafford Board of Supervisors is in favor of continuing to fund the construction of elementary school #19 on the campus of Brooke Point High School.

Chair and Falmouth District representative Meg Bohmke conducted a straw poll of supervisors at a budget work session on Tuesday evening. Vice Chair and Griffis-Widewater representative Tinesha Allen; Aquia representative Monica Gary; Hartwood representative Darrell English; and George Washington district representative Deuntay Diggs said they support moving forward with the school, for which they have already approved funding as part of the ten-year capital improvement plan adopted last spring.

Even so, Bohmke said she wants to set up a meeting with Germanna Community College’s Real Estate Foundation to begin negotiations for purchasing back a parcel of land off Old Potomac Church Road near Stafford Hospital that the school division had looked at as a potential site for elementary school 19.

Stafford County donated the site to Germanna in 2018 and it is where the leased Barabra J. Fried Center is located. Germanna plans to open a permanent $20 million location in north Stafford in October.

Bohmke said she considers the plan to build elementary school 19 at Brooke Point to be “the biggest disaster for Stafford County ever” and presented the Germanna site as an alternative.

“Why couldn’t we negotiate a deal with Germanna and if we got that site back and even if we have to pay some money, we don’t know what that would be, but would the Board be willing to give that to the schools to build elementary school 19 there?” she asked.

Allen and Gary expressed concern with the potential cost to the county of purchasing back the Germanna site and with delaying the construction of a new school, which is needed to alleviate current overcrowding and future growth in the school division.

“And will the School Board accept Germanna for elementary school 19? They may say no,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, they’re the governing body that gets to decide if they want to accept it as a school or not. At this stage, we don’t know how long the process will be. We don’t know how long it will take for Germanna to negotiate. At the end of the day, it’s not going to be on the timeline [to open elementary school 19 in August of 2026].”

Bohmke said Germanna “needs to have an urgent meeting with their Board within next two weeks, so our Board can review.”

“There could be another negotiation and then we say we’re in or we’re out,” she said.

Though funding for elementary school 19, as well as elementary school 18 and high school 6, is included on the capital improvement plan, supervisors earlier this month voted to defer authorizing an April 2 public hearing on issuing general obligation bonds from the Virginia Public School Authority in the amount of $91 million to finance these school construction projects.

Bohmke said Tuesday that staff have “indicated that we don’t need any money for the schools until maybe the fall of this year.”

Supervisors did not vote on any action at Tuesday’s work session, but Andrea Light, the county’s finance and budget director, said she had “direction” from the Board for how staff should prepare for the next budget work session on March 28.

Also at Tuesday’s work session, Light discussed a “consensus” among board members for approving a tax rate of $0.908. This tax rate would reduce new revenue for the school division’s budget from $15 million to $13 million.

“There were four of you who agreed that would be acceptable,” she said.

Division superintendent Thomas Taylor told supervisors at a joint work session of the School Board and Board of Supervisors earlier on Tuesday that staff compensation is the only area from which the school division would be able to make any further cuts.

Light said the tax rate of $0.908 would also require eliminating proposed increases to the school division’s ongoing capital maintenance and “3R” needs. Instead, supervisors have discussed allocating $1.4 million in one-time funds from year-end savings towards some of these needs.

Managing Editor and Correspondent