The Montgomery County School Board has taken the next step towards using an alternative funding option to renovate the high school and build a new elementary school in Christiansburg.
The school division recently received an unsolicited proposal from Los Angles-based firm Tamkin Development Corporation to build the schools under the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, which allows governments to use private firms to help fund building projects.
The school board is interested in using a PPEA to fund the projects, because the county does not want to borrow any more money for the next few years in order to preserve its AA+ bond rating.
The financial limits set by the board of supervisors are primarily the result of building a new Blacksburg middle and high school over the last decade.
The middle school was a planned project, but after the high school gymnasium ceiling collapsed following a 2010 snowstorm, a new high school was suddenly needed.
School officials have long said that the Christiansburg strand schools are in desperate need of repair and expansion due to aging infrastructure and a growing student body.
The school board voted unanimously last week to advertise the proposal from Tamkin and to allow other companies to bid on the project as required by law.
Tamkin CEO Jeffery Tamkin talked about the benefits of going the PPEA route in a join meeting with the school board and the board of supervisors at the end of October.
He said that both projects could be designed and completed within a few years of being approved.
The school system would own the land, but lease the buildings from Tamkin over the next few decades, ultimately buying the schools for $1 each once the debt had been repaid.
MCPS will take bids for 45 days as of Nov. 7. Once the bidding process is complete, a committee will review any proposals and will set a rubric for how to evaluate them, according to MCPS spokesperson Brenda Drake.
Drake said that it is about more than just which proposal is cheapest.
“We do not have to accept the least expensive proposal. Each proposal will be different and we will evaluate how well the proposal meets our needs,” she wrote in an email.
The board of supervisors does not necessarily have to “approve” the measure, but school officials have said they want the BOS to be on board with something of this magnitude, financially speaking.
The specifics of the Tamkin proposal have largely been kept under wraps, but the deal is likely north of $100 million using MCPS estimates for how much each project with cost. Tamkin did say that interest rates through a PPEA are competitive with those of a bank.
Besides Christiansburg schools running out of room, another thought is that, with construction costs constantly rising, the county would save as much as 20 percent compared to waiting until the early 2020s before starting the projects.
School officials have been pretty upbeat and optimistic about possibility that two major projects could be completed by the time they were originally slated to start.
The new elementary school would replace Belview as well as take some students from Christiansburg Primary School. The new school would have a capacity of 720 students, which would also allow for growth over the next several years. The high school, which has also already reached capacity, would be renovated and expanded.
MCPS is set to begin preliminary talks for redistricting before the end of the year.