The evident afterglow of elation from the two-to-one margin of victory in support of the Mt. Daniel school bond referendum in last week’s election has helped spur the effort to take the bond to the market in the first week of December.
City Manager Wyatt Shields underscored it with news that The Little City still retains its AAA bond rating with key Wall Street bond rating agencies (AAA with Fitch and Standard and Poor, and AA1 with Moody) guaranteeing that the City will get the lowest interest rates in the present lowest-ever interest rate environment.
The Falls Church City Council will vote the final approval for the sale at its Nov. 24 meeting, and work on the renovation and expansion of Mt. Daniel Elementary will begin next year with occupancy expected at the beginning of the school year 2016.
Meanwhile, F.C. School Board chair Susan Kearney crafted a letter for this week’s News-Press hailing the landslide vote as “a strong signal that the Falls Church community continues to support the value that an excellent school system brings to our students, families and the entire city.”
She added, “As a result of the ‘yes’ vote, an expanded and modernized Mt. Daniel school will be an asset for the entire community for many decades to come.”
The components expected to be funded by the bond are $10.4 million for the school, $640,000 for mandated sanitary sewer upgrades and $700,000 for storm water management improvements, a total of $11,700,000. The Council is being asked to approve the sale of a bond not to exceed $12,625,000.
The $10.4 million for Mt. Daniel will subsequently be augmented by the deployment of $4.2 million in school-related proffers from three developers who’ve either just completed or will have completed their large mixed-use projects in the City by the spring of 2016.
That includes a projected $2,035,481 from the Rushmark Project (that includes a Harris Teeter) on W. Broad St., $1,577,310 from the Lincoln Project on S. Maple St., and $680,358 from the just completed Northgate development on N. Washington St.
The annual debt service on the $10.4 million will be paid by the expected return on investment of the $10 million from the sale of the City’s water system that has been invested in the City’s pension fund.
That is expected to yield about $700,000, covering all but $140,000 annually of the debt service on the school project, leaving City residents having to pay for only a half-cent on the real estate tax rate for the new school projects.
The Mt. Daniel project will relieve both Mt. Daniel and Thomas Jefferson Elementary of temporary trailer classrooms, permitting the relocation of the second grade back to Mt. Daniel. Important playground space will be freed up as a result, as much of the expansion will be upward for that purpose.
In the spring, planning for the relocation of the students during the construction phase will be completed, to be implemented starting next fall for one year.
The City’s Chief Financial Officer Richard LaCondre assured the Council that the new debt the City will be taking on remins well within the policy limits that are operational here. That includes funds for renovation and expansion of the City Hall and the Mary Riley Styles Public Library that come next down the pike.
The current debt burden of the City is only $4,995,124, due to decrease to $4,956,138 next summer, and the proposed bond sale will increase that by $840,000. The looming prospect of a needed $100 million new high school will await a better analysis of how the school property, the 39 acres transferred from Fairfax County in to the Falls Church city limits as part of the City’s sale of its water system to the county, can be best developed.
Notwithstanding the eye opening Urban Land Institute rough cut evaluation of what can happen on those acres last month, the City will get more serious about mulling the options for that land in the spring, Wyatt Shields told the News-Press this week.
Just as the Urban Land Institute experts admitted that had they been asked to evaluate the land even just two years so, they might have called for mostly office space, the evolving commercial and residential markets in the region will need to be taken carefully into account in the upcoming considerations.
It is hoped that development on that site, some 10 acres of which is under the terms of sale agreement available for commercial development, will be able to help pay at least a portion of the $100 million for the new high school, Shields said.