Washington County is constructing a new preK-12 school that will consolidate substantially all the County’s public schools to one location. We worked for the County as bond counsel in connection with its $19.8 million local financing for the project.

The project had a total construction budget of approximately $76.5 million. The County received State funding totaling just over $50 million and is using about $1.5 million from fund balance. The County Schools identified about $3.5 million of ESSR funding that under the circumstances could be used for this project. Expected sales tax reimbursements round out the funding plan.

We like this project because:

  • The County Board and the School Board, when faced with a variety of very expensive options, bit the bullet and went forward with a plan that will significantly reduce on-going school operating costs and provide better educational opportunities, when compared with continuing to operate a variety of smaller, older schools.
  • It required extensive collaboration between the two boards. The two worked closely and intensely on the applications for State funding and on the programming for the school.
  • They also worked closely to develop a workable budget. The County did a good bit of stretching, and the County Schools came to work within the constraints. The parties have an interlocal agreement that sets out how borrowing this money will limit County capital funding for schools in the next several years, so that expectations are clear all around.
  • The interlocal agreement also goes into detail as to how funding will be expended for the project, and allocates the responsibilities for construction oversight. Again, this is about managing expectations and placing responsibility where it can be best assumed.

State capital funding for major school projects has been a blessing for communities like Washington County. Nevertheless, most of these grants have some match requirements, and many projects will need additional debt financing. Washington County is a good example of how a county and its school board can work together to address both the construction process and the implications of this project for short- and long-term local school funding.

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