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Spotsy to put $274.2 million bond on ballot

MORE: Read more Spotsylvania County news

Spotsylvania County voters will decide this year whether the county can borrow hundreds of millions of dollars for schools, roads and other projects.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to put an approximately $274.2 million bond referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Supervisors Chairman David Ross cast the lone dissenting vote. He said in an interview that the dollar amount is too high.

A Spotsylvania Circuit Court judge must now sign off on the referendum.

If voters approve the referendum in its entirety, the county will be able to borrow up to $141.7 million for schools; up to $63.3 million for transportation; up to $36.4 million for public safety; up to $21.5 million for general government projects; and up to $11.3 million for environmental and solid-waste projects. Residents will cast separate votes on each of those categories.

Ross did say he supported the transportation part but was concerned about the overall amount of debt the county could incur.

The additional debt could potentially add 15 cents to the real estate tax rate, according to county finance staff. Any tax increase would happen over time, not all at once.

Bonnie Jewell, the county’s senior financial analyst, said in an email that the potential impact to the real estate tax rate is a “worse-case gauge for the public.”

She said supervisors could choose to adjust other tax rates or make budget cuts to help pay off the additional debt. And any increases in revenue from sales or meals taxes could help cover debt payments, too, she said.

The supervisors also voted to spend $12,000 on what county staffers called “community outreach” on the bond referendum. That money includes $7,100 for two full-page ads in The Free Lance–Star and $4,200 for 25,000 brochures.

In addition, the county plans to host seven community meetings in October to educate residents. Assistant County Administrator Brian Scott told supervisors that the county can’t promote or criticize the referendum.

“We must stay neutral and provide only facts to the voters,” he told the supervisors.

The topic of another referendum first came up earlier this year during discussions about improvements to the Interstate 95 interchange in Massaponax. Proposed upgrades include a $45 million to $58 million “super ramp” that would carry southbound traffic from exit 126 to the U.S. 17 Bypass.

The county also hopes to widen both the U.S. 17 Bypass bridge spanning I–95 and a stretch of the U.S. 17 Bypass from the bridge to Hospital Drive. That work would likely be the first of the proposed improvements near exit 126 to be completed.

The Massaponax interchange has been an issue for years. During afternoon rush hours, vehicles queue up in the right lane of southbound I–95, waiting to get off the highway onto U.S. 1.

In 2005, voters approved a bond referendum that allowed the county to borrow up to $277.7 million for roads, schools, parks/libraries and public safety.

But that borrowing authority expires in the fall of next year, 10 years after it took effect.

As of April, the county had borrowed $142.8 million of the $277.7 million that was allowed under the 2005 referendum.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402; jbranscome@freelancestar.com

 

BOND REFERENDUM

Spotsylvania County’s bond referendum will include five categories to be voted on individually, Here’s a brief description of those categories:

  • $141.7 million for schools projects. That includes buying land for schools, new construction, renovations, new buses and new technology.
  • $63.3 million for transportation projects, including improvements in the area of Interstate 95 exits 126 and 118. Another road improvement that is identified is the widening of a portion of Harrison Road, in addition to upgrades to U.S. 1, State Route 2 and State Route 208.
  • $36.4 million for public safety. One significant project that has been identified is a new animal shelter.
  • $21.5 million for general government projects. That includes renovations to the judicial center and new technology.
  • $11.3 million for environmental and solid-waste projects, including the development of the Livingston Landfill.

 

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