New Kent County is one step closer to the construction of a new elementary school.
Supervisors agreed Feb. 27 that county administrator Rodney Hathaway will go forward with a $375,000 purchase agreement to buy 15 acres from Oak Ridge Farm in Quinton.
The lot is across from the Quinton Community Center. Superintendent Dr. David Myers, who was in attendance, said the division is eager to start the process.
A $1,603,066 contract with Mosley Architects was approved by the School Board on Feb. 11 for architecture and engineering services for the project, what the division has nicknamed “New Kent Elementary number 3,” according to Myers.
“We will start with a due diligence phase on the land we are contracting to purchase,” Myers said. “We have to ensure we can build on this land prior to finalizing the sale. Once that nears completion, we will start the site/design phase.”
This year, the county provided the school division with $28 million in capital improvement project funds.
The division originally wanted to find 40-plus acres for the school, Myers said, to have room to build a middle school in the future, but did not find such a site.
“We are still working with the board to secure another 50-plus acres for a different future school site, as it is just going to get harder and more expensive to find land down the road,” he said.
Hathaway presented his proposed 2019-2020 budget at the board’s Feb. 11 meeting and has since made adjustments due to a software calculation error and updated numbers.
Hathaway’s revised proposed budget is $70,010,642, with $35,165,788 budgeted for the school division.
The proposed budget includes no real estate tax increases, keeping the rate at 82 cents per $100 in assessed value, and 5 percent raises for county staff, according to Hathaway.
The county originally expected an 8.5 percent increase in employer health insurance costs, but it now projected a 3.5 percent increase, which would save the county $93,684, according to Hathaway.
Other revisions include dropping a Department of Social Services program coordinator position for $14,687, not upgrading the county to the latest version of Microsoft Office 365 for $115,000, not transferring $200,000 to the school’s operating fund, and receiving $50,000 more than expected in funds from four existing off-track betting facilities in Virginia, according to Hathaway.
“The cut does not mean I’m not a supporter of the schools,” Hathaway said. “The schools do expect to see an additional $1.9 million in state funding. They have needs, but we as a county do have needs as well.”
Hathaway said he originally cut a $98,438 procurement manager position, but put it back in the budget citing other savings.
The procurement manager position sparked discussion among the board.
Supervisor Ron Stiers asked whether the county could use $67,687 from the contingency fund and $98,438 from the procurement director position and transfer the funds to the school district’s operations fund.
But vice chairwoman Patricia Paige said she thinks the county needs a procurement director.
“For two or three years we’ve talked about a procurement director. We’ve passed on it, and at the end of the day it could mean savings for us,” Paige said. “But an example of what we could’ve used a procurement director for is to help with the request for more money for the new fire station and any progress in the county, such as the new elementary school.”
Additionally, the procurement director could assist Hathaway with other project funds, according to Paige.
“That’s a position I’m willing to fight for,” she said.
Salary compensation and employer health insurance is a highlight of the proposed budget.
Five percent salary increases for county staff are projected to cost $509,268 and would go into effect July 1, according to the proposed budget document.
“This goes along with the schools’ salary increases they have done,” Hathaway said. “As you know, the governor has proposed a 5 percent salary increase for teachers over two years. The schools gave 2 percent raises last year and are looking at 3 percent this year. This puts us at a similar level.”
With the county projected to see a smaller-than-expected increase in employer health insurance costs, Hathaway is proposing a 5 percent cost reduction for employees with family and employee plus-one insurance plans, costing the county $77,586, according to Hathaway.
The county will add six new positions for a total of $360,643: one sheriff’s deputy, changing one part-time custodian to full time and four firefighter/emergency medical technicians, according to Hathaway.
“The four new firefighter/emergency medical technicians are for fire station five,” Hathaway said. “We funded two last year, and with this four that is enough to man fire station five when it starts running sometime in the fall.”
» Hathaway brought the board a contract for a well at Pine Fork Park. The board unanimously agreed that Hathaway would sign a contract with Toano Well and Pump Service for $71,886 for a class one 45-foot well near the edge of the park.
» The county may have a broadband internet study done in the near future. Hathaway asked the board if they have any interest in a study. The board agreed to allow Hathaway to put out a request for proposal the study and to review different offers.
Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ashleyrluck on Twitter