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Legislators discuss possibility of Charlottesville sales tax to pay for school reconfiguration

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 10:47 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville’s two representatives in Richmond spoke to the city’s school board Thursday night about what they should prioritize in the upcoming General Assembly, with emphasis on one specific policy.

That policy would allow the city to implement a 1% special sales tax, where all the money would go straight to the two-phase $100 million reconfigurations.

The project, which would impact Walker Upper Elementary and Buford Middle, has its challenges. One of them is inflation.

“That inflation is our biggest threat right now to be able to raise revenue to match it,” said Wyck Knox of VMDO Architecture.

Knox was on Zoom sharing that information with the school board, which unanimously approved the project. In order to help offset the hefty price tag, he urged either the passage of a bill that would allow any locality to bring that sales tax to the voters, or at least the passage of a bill that would give Charlottesville the chance to do so.

“We just think that the sales tax follows kind of the philosophy that we’re hearing these days about local control of schools, local controls of the funding,” Knox said.

Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds told the board he supports the measure.

“We’ve got to be able to address it when we can, where we can,” Deeds said.

Delegate Sally Hudson, a Democrat who represents the 57th District, said she’s encouraged that the Commission on School Reconstruction and Modernization recently endorsed the statewide approach.

“There definitely are votes in both chambers and in both parties for that approach,” Hudson said, “and we’ll sort of wait and see for now about which one looks more viable in each chamber.”

After the General Assembly takes action, the measure would go to Charlottesville voters. School Board Chair Lisa Larson-Torres said that’s where collaboration with City Council and constituents becomes even more important.

“We need to do what we said we’re committed to doing, and educating and sitting down with the public and helping them understand what that looks like and what impacts that may or may not have,” she said.

New Superintendent Royal Gurley shared his excitement about the project.

“[It would be] a really good win for us, especially once we get that preschool center,” he said. “That will become our brand, because that will be how the educational experience starts here at CCS.”

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