$7.2M Budget Windfall for Clarke County Education?

The recent financial windfall from lower-than-expected school construction bids has not escaped the attention of the Clarke County School Board. Based on the original $40.381M budget the School Board and the Board of Supervisors now control nearly $7.2M of surplus funding:

Item Expense % of Total
Land $2,407,433 7.247%
Construction Costs $23,300,000 70.135%
Construction Contingency $1,025,278 3.086%
Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment $1,800,000 5.418%
Fire Flow Booster Pump $250,000 0.753%
Construction Testing $481,154 1.448%
Bldg. Commissioning $195,400 0.588%
Water/Sewer tap fees $224,000 0.674%
All Permitting fees (estimated) $200,320 0.603%
Site Evaluation $239,239 0.720%
Architects (CRA) $2,104,404 6.334%
Project Managers (GF) $808,622 2.434%
All legal fees $123,716 0.372%
Miscellaneous $61,901 0.186%
Project Costs (est.) $33,221,467.00
Available Budget $40,381,092.00
Unspent School Funds $7,159,625.00

What exactly will the School Board do with the extra $7.2M?

“The response to that will be when we obtain the various cost estimates for the various options discussed” School Board Chairman Robina Bouffault said in an email message. “The School Board also wants to try and lighten the tax burden for our citizens as much as possible during these hard economic times, so if we can use mostly the VPSA bond funds, and use only a portion of the Board of Supervisor funds while addressing our basic capacity needs as well, we will try to do that and avoid additional tax increases in the near term. We may  not be able to do everything we would like, but are hopeful of doing most of it.”

Clarke County's School Board must decide on how to spend $7.2M of surplus funding.

The $7.2M surplus comes from two sources of funding; VPSA bond funds include $3.46M borrowed through the Virginia Public School Authority and financed by Clarke County taxpayers. VPSA bond funding may only be spent on school construction or renovation. The additional $3.67M in cash held by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors can be spent on any project authorized by the Board of Supervisors and is not necessarily mandated for the new school project.

According to Bouffault the $3.67M school cash fund was generated “over a  number of years, as the Board of Supervisors annually put aside +/- $500K in cash for school  construction as a matter of course.”

At last night’s meeting Bouffault said that the $3.46M in VPSA bond funds would cover the cost of increasing the new high school capacity to 1,000 students by adding eight additional classrooms. Based on an estimated construction cost of $150 per square foot, the 10,000 square foot capacity increase will cost approximately $1.5M. Bouffault said that she believed that the remaining $1.96M of VPSA funding would probably cover converting the existing Clarke County High School to a new elementary school (previously estimated at  $4.5M.)

“The high school conversion would include re-doing the kitchen and cafeteria as well as installing smaller bathroom facilities appropriate for elementary students” Bouffault said.

CCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy offered a long list of additional projects for funding consideration including transitioning Boyce Elementary to a “neighborhood school”, abandoning the F&M Bank facility and consolidating administrative staff at Berryville Primary.

School Board Member Jennifer Welliver (Berryville) asked that a greenhouse be reconsidered for inclusion in the new high school design.

Whether any of the non-VPSA funding controlled by the Board of Supervisors will be spent on Clarke County education is an open question at the moment. The money could be used for needed school infrastructure and compensation budget shortfalls if the Board of Supervisors can be convinced to spend the money. Teacher salaries have been stagnant for several years while school kitchen facilities, roofs and buses have also been cited as funding challenges.

During Monday night’s discussion there appeared to be consensus that conversion of the existing high school to an elementary school will result in excess classroom capacity over current elementary student enrollment requirements. Several School Board members expressed a desire to use only perimeter classrooms with natural light for students while utilizing interior spaces for administrative and other functions in the planned refurbishment.

Bouffault said that Monday night’s budgetary discussion was simply a review of possible options. “We need to have clear cost estimates of any addition to the project, along with demographic  research, and timeline estimates. We will also need to look at the current  high school renovations and get cost info on that as well, together with the  space study that Dr. Murphy will be organizing.”

“We still have quite a bit of research to do to reach any definitive conclusions and make the corresponding decisions” Bouffault said.


  1. Travis Goodwin says:

    Let’s get the best new CCHS built that we can, first. Locate all of the programs there, on that site, and get it square and equipped with the best equipment we can get. It’s nice to dream and plan, but let’s take care of the most pressing thing first – we still have to build the new high school.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      I agree.
      The first priority is to build the “Right” HS. One that keeps the future in mind.
      Second is HS to ES conversion.
      Lastly, take care of any pressing needs that improve the educational system. Most importantly, spend it wisely; improvements for tomorrow not just today.

  2. Mayor Quinsby says:

    Let’s pay some highly talented and costly focus groups to assess our new found monies. They can hash it out for a few years, sub-contracting lawyers and financial experts to make sure there are no legal issues with spending money. After the inevitable heated debates are over, we can use a 2-3 year “cooling off period” and then form a committee to see if we need to re-assess our goals.

  3. I don’t think that I’ve EVER seen one county have this much ‘trouble’ trying to build a school. In my opinion, it’s passed ridiculous at this point. A new high school has been needed since I graduated in ’98……and yet….there still isn’t one. They’ve been talking about it for years now. Heck, I wrote a letter to Jennifer Welliver about the size of the school…and how it was still too small to begin with, to no avail. They will tell you anything at all just to get over on you.

    So I’m not rambling so much….C’mon CC…get it together..and get the school built! Enough is enough already!

  4. Right Winger says:

    Gee, why the negativity? 😉

  5. haha. Gee..I dont know?

    I dont live in CC anymore….but it’s still aggravating to watch this all unfold. No other county in the state of VA has any problems like this when it comes to building a school. It’s a sincere need for the kids in that county. It’s a critical need.

    I agree to build the RIGHT school…but goodness gracious…should it really take this long? While the board goes back and forth with each other….and throwing more monkey wrenches into the plans as possible?


    • Right Winger says:

      I was being facetious, I get griped at for being negative a lot. 😉

      I couldn’t leave here, I like this area way too much. Just hate to see it get a bad rap because of the rotten apples running things.

      • Oh I know you were…lol…

        I also see that you do get a bad rap for being ‘negative’. Some people just haven’t taken the ‘rose colored glasses’ off just yet.

  6. clarkehaven says:

    It never stops with government at any level. HEY….this is NOT free money. It does NOT have to be spent! Is the available balance on YOUR credit card a “windfall”?

    Remember the “tax and spenders” who wanted to float $55M in bonds for the school a few years ago? Try that tax bill on for size in this economy. I am NOT a fan of the present school board but I do like idea of this county being burdened with $12M LESS debt. WE must live within our means or our children will suffer far more in the future……much more than the hardship of not having a greenhouse on the new school.

  7. Bubba D says:

    How about save the money for a rainy day in a interest bearing account? More than likely, it will be needed for something once the new school is built or the current one is converted to elementary. BUT, save as much as possible, paying close attention to what is a NEED and what is a WANT. I know, it’s a novel concept for any form of government yet practiced in most households across the country as a necessity.

    • Wow! Something that makes a litttttle bit of sense Bubba!

      Nope…won’t happen….b/c of that!