McClellan Statement on House Subcommittee Vote Against Bipartisan Local School Construction Funding Bill

RICHMOND, VA – Today, Sen. Jennifer McClellan released the following statement on House Finance Subcommittee #3’s vote to table SB 472, a bipartisan bill 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.

SB 472 passed the Senate with a strong bipartisan majority on a 28-12 vote. The bill is a recommendation of the bipartisan Commission on School Construction and Modernization, which McClellan chairs. 

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 House Subcommittee also blocked related bills today: 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 provides all localities this same option.

“It’s disappointing to see the House subcommittee kill a critical school construction bill that has broad bipartisan support. While school construction, renovation and maintenance is primarily a local responsibility, the General Assembly has given our localities limited tools to fund their growing needs. As a result, we have billions of dollars of unmet school infrastructure needs across the Commonwealth that impact our kids’ ability to learn. We should empower citizens to choose whether their localities should adjust local sales taxes to fund school construction,” McClellan said. “This local option has been popular everywhere, passing in 7 of the 8 localities in Southside Virginia and the Middle Peninsula where it has been on the ballot. I will continue to work across party lines with my colleagues to pass this bill.

“Fortunately, we still have a number of major bipartisan bills to help address school construction. Three of the Commission’s recommendations are still pending, including bipartisan bills to create a School Construction Fund and to make changes to the Literary Fund to provide lower-interest-rate loans for localities to use for school construction. Our children cannot learn in crumbling school buildings – and it is crucial that we pass bipartisan school construction funding this session.”

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 renovate or replace these buildings.

McClellan authored the legislation in 2020 that created the bipartisanCommission on School Construction and Modernization. In December 2021, the 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).

The following bills recommended by the Commission on School Construction and Modernization remain under consideration in the House:

  • SB 473 (McClellan/Sen. Steven Newman/Sen. Todd Pillion) Creates a School Construction Fund and Program to provide grants to school boards that leverage federal, state, and local programs and resources to finance the design and construction of new school buildings and facilities or the modernization and maintenance of existing school buildings and facilities.

  • SB 471 (McClellan): Adopts 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 238 (Sen. Jeremy McPike/McClellan): 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.