Saturday, June 22, 2024

Bedford County’s $28M Educational Infrastructure Development: Borrowing State Literary Loans for School Construction Projects


Bedford County Embarks on $28M School Project Journey with State Loans

In a significant move towards educational infrastructure development, Bedford County is on the verge of borrowing up to $28.6 million in state literary loans. This financial maneuver is aimed at funding a series of construction projects within the county’s public school division. The spotlight is on a public hearing scheduled for April 22, which will delve into the specifics of this financial venture.

During a recent work session, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors was briefed by Randy Hagler, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations at Bedford County Public Schools, alongside a representative from Jamerson-Lewis Construction. The focal point of the discussion was on three pivotal projects: substantial upgrades to the auditoriums at Staunton River and Liberty high schools, the replacement of canopies at the same institutions, and the construction of a new gymnasium for Bedford Primary School.

The sources of the state literary loans include criminal fines, fees, and forfeitures, unclaimed property, and unclaimed lottery winnings, as detailed by the Virginia Department of Education. This funding approach ensures that tax dollars are preserved while still facilitating necessary school construction and upgrades.

Details shared during the session shed light on the scope of the projects. Liberty High School’s auditorium is set to see a 21,600-square-foot upgrade, including a 5,000-square-foot extension, while Staunton River High School’s 548-seat auditorium will expand to approximately 19,000 square feet, offering additional space for programs.

With total project costs hovering just over $30 million, the finance team spearheaded by Hagler is focused on cost savings without compromising quality. A facilities committee comprising county school board members and construction industry experts provides crucial input towards this goal, ensuring that financial prudence is maintained.

Reflecting on the bidding process for construction, Hagler highlighted a more competitive environment compared to previous years, attributing it to a broader pool of bidding companies which ultimately benefits the projects through potentially lower costs.

The county’s strategic approach includes employing the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002 (PPEA) for project management, a practice previously successful in other county school projects such as the renovation of Jefferson Forest High School, which concluded under budget and ahead of schedule.

Ashley Anderson, Bedford County’s director of finance, explained that each project would be supported by individual loans to ensure financial discipline. In case of budget overruns, the school’s maintenance reserve fund would serve as a financial cushion, avoiding additional requests for funding from the county.

County officials are preparing for a future without additional funding from the town of Bedford’s 2013 reversion adjustment. Plans are underway to fortify the reserve fund to support school projects beyond this period.

In a recent decision, the Board of Supervisors approved a 41-cent real estate tax rate to partially fund these capital improvement projects, among others, demonstrating a commitment to enhancing the county’s educational facilities.

Moreover, the board commemorated two significant local contributions: the dedication of late Kenneth “Kenny” Palmer, a former operations coordinator for Bedford County Parks and Recreation, and the centennial celebration of The Rotary Club of Bedford, both recognized for their substantial impact on the community.

Looking ahead, the proposed borrowing and subsequent construction projects underscore Bedford County’s dedication to nurturing an environment conducive to educational excellence. This forward-thinking approach promises to furnish students and faculty with enhanced facilities, poised to support learning and development for years to come.

Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett is a seasoned business journalist with over a decade of experience covering the global economy, finance, and corporate strategies. With a Bachelor's degree in Economics and a Master's in Business Journalism from Columbia University, Alexandra has built a reputation for her insightful analysis and ability to break down complex economic trends into understandable narratives. Prior to joining our team, she worked for major financial publications in New York and London. Alexandra specializes in mergers and acquisitions, market trends, and economic

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