Bill Will Allow Localities to Utilize Sales Tax to Fix Crumbling Schools
RICHMOND, VA – Today, the Virginia Senate passed Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s (D-Richmond) bill (SB 472) to allow any Virginia locality to fund school construction and renovation through an up to 1% increase in sales tax passed in a local referendum.
McClellan’s bill passed with a strong bipartisan majority today, in a 28-12 vote. The bill is a recommendation of the bipartisan Commission on School Construction and Modernization, which McClellan chairs.
“This is a major step forward towards addressing Virginia’s crisis of crumbling schools,” Sen. McClellan said. “This bipartisan bill would empower voters in all localities in Virginia to choose to invest in local school construction and modernization. I look forward to working to pass this bill through the House and advance other recommendations of the bipartisan School Construction and Modernization Commission this session.”
Under current Virginia law, only 9 localities have the ability to levy local sales and use taxes for school construction: Charlotte, Gloucester, Halifax, Henry, Mecklenburg, Northampton, Patrick, and Pittsylvania Counties and the City of Danville. The Senate today also passed SB 298 from Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) to add Charlottesville and SB 37 from Sen. Norment (R-James City) to add Isle of Wight to the list. McClellan’s bill would provide all localities this same option.
More than 1,000 schools — more than half of K-12 school buildings in Virginia — are more than 50 years old, according to the Commission on School Construction and Modernization. The Commission estimates that the amount of funding needed to replace these buildings is $24.8 billion. Many localities face significant challenges in raising sufficient funds to undertake these projects.
In December 2021, the Commission on School Construction and Modernization recommended several measures to address Virginia’s long overlooked school construction, renovation, and maintenance needs, which have been introduced as Senate bills by Commission members Sen. McClellan, Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin), and Sen. Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William), and as House bills by Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond), Del. Shelly Simonds (D-Newport News), and Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun).
McClellan authored the legislation in 2020 that created the Commission. The Commission’s other 2022 school construction bills include:
SB 471 (McClellan)/ HB 253 (Simonds): Adopting changes to the state Literary Fund to make more money available to local school divisions through loans with lower interest rates than currently allowed by law;
SB 472 (McClellan)/ HB 1099 (LaRock): allows all localities in Virginia to impose a 1% increase in their sales tax, subject to voter approval and to be used solely for school construction or renovation. Under current law, such sales tax is only permitted in nine enumerated localities;
SB 481 (McClellan)/HB 251 (Simonds): Creating incentives for local governing bodies and school boards to collaborate to set aside for the purpose of capital projects any funds appropriated to the school board by the local governing body that are not spent by the school board in any year.
SB276 (Stanley)/ HB 608 (Bourne): Permits any school board to finance capital projects with any funds appropriated to it by the local governing body that are unexpended by the school board in any year.
SB 603(Stanley)/ HB 1100 (LaRock): Requires the Board of Education (the Board) to make recommendations to the General Assembly for amendments to the Standards of Quality to establish standards for the maintenance and operations, renovation, and new construction of public elementary and secondary school buildings.
SB 238 (McPike)/HB 252 (Simonds): Requires the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of General Services, to develop or adopt and maintain a data collection tool to assist each school board to determine the relative age of each public school building in the local school division and the amount of maintenance reserve funds that are necessary to restore each such building.