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Culpeper High fix-up on ballot
Voters will decide whether to spend $21 million to renovate Culpeper High.

Date published: 6/8/2011

BY DONNIE JOHNSTON

A bond referendum to borrow $21 million to renovate Culpeper High School will be on the November ballot.

The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors yesterday approved a resolution sending the measure to the Circuit Court. The tally was unanimous, but several votes came with reservations.

"A lower amount would be more realistic," said Supervisor Steve Nixon. "These are very lean times."

Supervisor Sue Hansohn echoed those sentiments, then asked, "If this fails, what is Plan B?"

School system construction projects director Hunter Spencer replied, "Just hammer away" at the upgrade problem.

Supervisor Steve Walker and Chairman Bill Chase wanted the ballot question to contain language warning voters that passage would almost certainly cost county residents 4 or 5 more cents annually on their real-estate tax bills.

County Attorney Roy Thorpe said it could not, and that the board's bond counsel had taken great care when wording both the resolution and the ballot question.

Supervisor Larry Aylor suggested that the associated tax implication be placed on the county's website for residents to study between now and November. And he acknowledged that passage could be a tough matter.

"The School Board has really got to do a sales job between now and Election Day," Aylor said. "And they are prepared to do that."

Initially the School Board wanted a $20 million referendum, but Thorpe and the county bond counsel realized that no one had considered money needed for closing costs. Just to make sure there will be enough funds in the pot, $1 million more was added.

County Administrator Frank Bossio said that, if passed, the additional $21 million debt would not adversely affect the county's bond rating since old debt payments will begin to dramatically decrease before the new money is borrowed.

If taxpayers approve the referendum, project bids could go out as early as the second half of next year, Spencer said.

Culpeper High was built in 1968 and has undergone no major renovation since.

In other action yesterday, the Board of Supervisors voted to:

Appropriate $60,000 for architectural fees to design an addition to the recently acquired VDOT building that will become home to Culpeper Human Services.

Send a resolution to the state opposing the EPA's plan to accelerate the limiting of Chesapeake Bay pollutants.

Donnie Johnston:
Email: djohnston@freelancestar.com