City looks to bonds to fund new school

Published 8:57 pm Monday, May 2, 2011

City leaders have asked state lawmakers to help obtain more interest-free funding from the state to build a replacement school for the current Southwestern and Robertson elementary schools.

The city has asked state officials for their help in acquiring more money in no-interest bonds to fund the construction of a replacement school for Southwestern and Robertson elementary schools.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn sent letters to state Delegates Chris Jones and Johnny Joannou and state Sen. Frederick M. Quayle, asking for their support in getting the city any funds that become available in Qualified School Construction Bonds.

Qualified School Construction Bonds are issued by the Virginia Public School Authority to fund construction and renovation projects in 33 school divisions.

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The school divisions are responsible for the repayment of the amount of the bond but receive federal subsidies for the interest.

The city and schools already were awarded $7.5 million in March, half of the $15 million for which they applied.

“We appreciate your support and direct assistance in obtaining this award,” Cuffee-Glenn wrote, “and respectfully request any assistance you can provide in obtaining additional QSCB funding that may be declined by other recipients and would thus become available to support this important construction project.”’

Jones said he is not sure what the chances are other localities will turn down the funds.

“I can’t imagine that they would be very high,” he said. “But you don’t know until you ask and until you try.”

Jones said he was happy the city was able to acquire the amount in lieu of several projects requiring funding throughout the commonwealth.

Suffolk’s capital improvement plan calls for $17.5 million to build the new school.

Cuffee-Glenn said in her letter that the bond program’s accommodating repayment plan and zero-percent interest rate allow the city to facilitate the project and ease unnecessary hardship on the budget and taxpayers.

“The only way that we can responsibly move forward and accelerate the new elementary school project is through zero percent interest money with the highly flexible structural payments that only QSCBs provide,” she wrote.

Cuffee-Glenn added the elementary school project fulfills Gov. Bob McDonnell’s requirements for the allocation of the bonds because it would create jobs and stimulate economic development.