Virginia residents won’t have direct say come November over whether the state should improve school facilities.
The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday killed a bill from Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, that would have required a statewide referendum on whether the General Assembly should take out $3 billion worth of bonds in the name of improving school facilities.
The bill died in a 14-2 vote. Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, and Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, voted in opposition.
“I don’t believe we’re ready to advance this in a referendum,” said Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, one of the co-chairmen of the committee, which had little discussion before killing the bill.
The referendum bill was the result of a summer’s worth of study from a subcommittee led by Stanley that traveled the state looking at issues in public schools.
“We found a uniform problem that we have deteriorating school infrastructure,” Stanley said before the vote. 3
More than 3 in 5 of the state’s 2,030 school buildings are more than 40 years old, a state study found in 2013.
If the advisory ballot measure passed in November, state lawmakers would have debated issuing $3 billion in bonds, paid off through money generated by an Internet sales tax, Stanley said.
While the committee killed Stanley’s referendum bill, it did endorse a bill from the Southwest Virginia senator that would create a special fund administered by the Department of Education to give school boards grants for repairing or replacing school roofs.
“All the problems with the deterioration of our schools start at the roofline,” Stanley said.
That bill, unanimously approved by the Finance Committee, will now be taken up by the full Senate.
The Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday is set to take action on a bill from Stanley that would allow private companies to lease buildings to school districts with an eye toward more renewable energy.