School Construction

An issue that was front and center for many of us in rural Virginia this session was school construction. Several of us had different perspectives and experiences as to how best the state could help those counties in rural areas as well as inner cities. To better understand the issue, allow me to set the stage on how this has been dealt with in the past.

The Literary Fund was the first source of funding to assist in construction for local governments’ school needs. Originally established by then Governor Thomas Jefferson, the Literary Fund was designated to receive the penalties paid for breaking the law. Jefferson believed that if fines were paid to local governments, it would lead to abuse. Having these funds come to the state for a greater purpose would prevent that. This worked well for years, receiving more and more court fines as paved roads and more powerful cars led to driving citations in the last half of the twentieth century. There was money available that the state could loan to build schools. However, in the last thirty years, counties figured out they could beat the system by passing local ordinances to match state traffic laws. Now many city and town police and county deputies write driving citations on those local ordinances, directing fines be paid to the county for local government needs.

This has left the Virginia Literary Fund with too few dollars to meet construction needs. For the last several years, the most a county could borrow was $7.5 million. This might repair some buildings, but the school system would have to borrow elsewhere for new construction. This year the Governor proposed to add 80 million General Funds’ dollars to the Fund. This amount would not be enough to build one new high school in the state; therefore, it would be of limited value.

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To read the column article pick up the March 20, 2019 edition of the Brunswick Times-Gazette.