CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- When Chesterfield County voters head to the polls in November, they will be asked to approve a bond referendum approving the issuance of hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds over the next decade to fund capital improvement projects.
County leaders laid out how much they were asking for and how that money would be spent on Thursday.
If approved, the county said over an eight to ten-year period, it would issue up to $540 million in general obligation bonds to pay for capital projects in four areas: schools, public safety, libraries and parks and recreation.
This is the county's first bond referendum since 2013, when voters approved $304-million to renovate or replace some of the county's oldest schools and $49-million to pay for a replacement emergency communications system. On Thursday, officials said all of the school projects have been completed and the emergency communications system was underway and expected to be completed by FY2023.
"We've had a lot of growth in the last nine years. There were things we didn't get done, quite frankly, in 2013," said Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joseph Casey.
The proposed projects for each area are as follows:
Schools: $375-million total funding
- $40-million to replace A.M. Davis Elementary School,
- $42-million to replace Bensley Elementary School,
- $43-million for a new elementary school in the western portion of the county around Route 360,
- $135-million for a new high school in the western portion of the county around Route 360,
- $43-million to replace Grange Hall Elementary School,
- $22-million to expand Thomas Dale High School,
- $50-million to replace Midlothian Middle School (the county said the total cost for this project is $100-million, but the remainder is funded through other sources).
Libraries: $45.7-million total funding
- $17-million to replace Enon Library,
- $12.2-million to expand Ettrick-Matoaca Library,
- $16.5-million for a new library along the western section of Hull Street.
Parks and Recreation: $38.2-million total funding
- $17.2-million for enhancements to River City Sportsplex,
- $10-million for enhancements to Horner Park (including a new softball complex),
- $2-million to improve access (such as parking or trails) to four conservation areas owned by the county,
- $4-million to improve water access in Falling Creek,
- $5-million for another boat launch on the James River.
Public Safety: $81.1-million total funding
- $12.3-million to replace the Chester Fire and Rescue Station,
- $12.3-million to replace the Ettrick Fire and Rescue Station,
- $9.3-million to expand/renovate the Clover Hill Fire and Rescue Station,
- $8.1-million to expand/renovate the Dutch Gap Fire and Rescue Station,
- The county also build four county-owned police stations around Chesterfield, allowing the department to move out of the buildings they currently lease. They would be in the:
- Stonebridge area ($8.8-million),
- Western Hull Street Road area ($10.1-million),
- Chester area ($10.1-million),
- Westchester area ($10.1-million).
Officials said that three main things guided what they selected - economic interest, capacity and revitalization.
"Fire stations, I think, are a great example. Going into established communities that have established facilities and bringing them up to sort of that modern standard," Matt Harris, Chesterfield County's Administrator for Finance and Administration, said.
Officials said they started this process in 2019 and intended it for a 2020 referendum but delayed it because of the pandemic and funding, including federal relief, between now and then changed.
"We never stop our capital planning, the needs and opportunities are always a little bit different," Harris said.
Officials said there will be no new taxes associated with paying off the debt from these bonds and say they have the capacity to take on new debt with their current revenue streams.
"None of this is betting on additional growth, additional dollars coming in, we've already got those on hand. And again, the fundamentals don't suggest that they're going to go away," Harris said.
If approved, officials said they will stagger the projects over the next decade. Among the driving factors for what gets done first is the real estate piece.
"If you're replacing the existing facility as close to the community that it's serving, and then in the first instance, it's an essential consideration," Harris said.
If rejected, officials said there are other financing sources that are available to pursue but they may have to wait a few years after the vote.
They add that they would do everything that they could to maintain public standards for essential projects like schools and public safety.
"We will have to rebalance other priorities and needs and operational needs. It's not a pleasant exercise. But, again, it's an exercise that as professionals, we will go through," Casey said.
Early voting starts on September 23.