The issue of overcrowding in Harrisonburg High School has been well documented and discussed for years. School Board presented the latest plan for a second high school during the December 12th City Council meeting. The “discussion regarding construction of a second high school” has been included in two City council agendas (January 9th and January 23rd). We hope the issue will receive a ‘YES’ vote without further delay. However, the latest presentation from the City Finance Director makes us wonder…
Under Tuesday’s City Council Agenda, there is a PowerPoint presentation attached to the agenda item related to the second high school “discussion.” It uses a few inaccurate assumptions you should be aware of prior to the meeting:
1. Scenarios 2-6 do not include construction inflation index.
2. Scenarios 2-6 does not increase interest rates for bonds.
The presentation only focuses on probable property tax increases. According to the Powerpoint,
– if we build for a 2021 opening, property taxes will be raised by 13.4 cents;
– if we delay for one additional year, we will pay 12.6 cents instead.
THIS IS NOT CORRECT. It makes some unrealistic projections because it doesn’t account for inflation. The cost of the $76M high school will increase (according to construction inflation indexes) to at least $79M with a 2022 opening. Taxes would likely need to be raised higher than 13.4 cents if the opening was delayed until 2022.
The presentation did not mention the other costs associated with a delay. How do you account for the cost of having another 500 students join the thousands of students who have had to attend an overcrowded Harrisonburg High School? How do you account for the opportunities they lose? What about the costs associated with more trailers and the additional operating costs needed to alleviate overcrowding in the interim?
Maybe 500 students doesn’t resonate as much as tax increases… so let’s stay focused on the money. A high school is a large expenditure. Some Council members have requested shaving the cost from the high school price tag. Why can’t we shave costs on other proposed projects? If Council is only worried about the bottom line, let’s trim or eliminate across the board rather than hone in on the high school project. A total of $59M is allocated for the East Market Street Exit 247 improvements between 2019-2023. The project request form (from the CIP) states “decreasing the scope of project into smaller phases”. We agree!
The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) presented at the January 12th Council meeting showed a proposed second high school within the numbers. But to clarify, this is only a plan (carefully considered and vetted by financial experts). The projects and funding have not yet been approved! This can (and should) change on Tuesday, January 23rd, when we hope City Council will vote to build the $76 million high school and open the doors in August 2021. Then the second high school debate will end.