“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.” -W. Edwards Deming
For years the School Board and Board of Supervisors have developed the county’s Capital Improvement Plan by first the School Board setting their priorities and adopting their version of the plan. The School Board would then send their plan over to the Board of Supervisors who would take a look at the proposed School Board projects, combine them with county projects, re-prioritize the whole list, then adopt the county’s Capital Improvement Plan. Projects the School Board prioritize and included in their plan may or may not have remained on the final plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors. The school division would have to live with whatever the county adopted as the final plan.
The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is how the county plans and finances large expense projects. Capital Improvement Plans are typically reserved for new buildings, renovation of existing buildings and park and transportation projects. The plan details estimated costs and the availability of debt from year to year.
Due to the way the county has developed the CIP for years projects get promoted and demoted on the list somewhat randomly. The current way of doing it gives members of the Board of Supervisors more powerful to advocate or eliminate projects than School Board members. It also enables stronger voiced members to advocate louder for projects in their districts over broader county needs. Over the years this had lead to situations like Ferry Farm Elementary School continuously being pushed down a list of priority and not being considered for renovation or rebuild in a timely manner.
In 2017 the two board embarked on a fix to the CIP process to adopt an actual process in which the needs of the county as a whole were examined above political or personal motivations of individual board members. The new process involved a review by committees of staff from both the school division and county administration to analyze needs, projects and prioritization. The staff committee recommendations were then sent to a joint committee of equal number of Supervisors and School Board Members to review the recommendations.
In August of 2017 both boards adopted the CIP process unanimously. In November of 2017 the two boards held the joint CIP committee meetings and discussed the projects. There was concern expressed by various members of both boards about various projects. Three projects of particular note were the new courthouse and whether it would be planned for the full $70 million replacement cost, or if it would be built in phases. A second project that created discussion was the rebuild of renovation of Ferry Farm Elementary School. And the final project of significant discussion was whether the School Board should move forward on purchasing the now vacant building owned by the Fredericksburg Christian School in north Stafford. The FCS school building is proposed to be purchased to help add capacity to the school division and potentially house parts of the division’s preschool classrooms.
After three meetings the members of the joint committee came to a decision, with some information still pending to be collected and decided up on about the courthouse rebuild, to take the recommendation back to their respective boards and continue moving forward in the process.
Somewhere along the way wires got crossed and the process fell apart. Both boards have now reverted back to the old way of developing the CIP and it appears to be ready to create strife between the boards once again. The School Board considered and adopted their version of the CIP at their April 11 meeting. They have adopted the following school division projects in the following order of priority: 1. Purchase and Renovate Fredericksburg Christian School building, 2. Renovate Ferry Farm Elementary School 3. Build High School #6 4. Rebuild Hartwood Elementary School 5. Build Elementary School #18
The sole vote against the CIP was cast by Aquia District School Board member Irene Egan, who has long advocated and supported the development of the new CIP process, citing her reason for voting “no” was due the CIP not being developed within the guidelines of the newly adopted CIP process.
The CIP is now in the court of the Board of Supervisor. They will need to decide how to work the School Board’s priorities into those of the county and may or may not accept the priorities as the School Board has sent them over to the BOS.