Chesterfield administration and elected officials have been on the road promoting the referenda and meals tax. The elected officials support the referenda that consist of $304 million in bonds to support school facility improvements, headlined by the renovation or replacement of 10 older schools and the addition of one new elementary school. Bonds in the amount of $49 million to provide for the replacement of the county’s emergency communications system.
Voters will also decide whether to establish a local meals tax of 2 percent in order to help finance the public safety and school construction improvements in the referendum.
Not only is the Bermuda District Supervisor and Board Chair, Dorothy Jaeckle supporting the referendum and meals tax, but the Bermuda School Board Representative, Carrie Coyer is in favor of the three items on the ballot on November 5.
“I think it is very important that we catch up on school maintenance and renovations. The meals tax allows us to complete the proposed projects over seven years versus eleven years. This will save us four years of major maintenance on some of those buildings and put us on a more realistic maintenance schedule of all of our schools,” Ms. Jaeckle said. “These buildings are a community asset. I view the meals tax as a responsible way of finding a funding mechanism to accomplish the goal of upgrading and maintaining those assets.”
Both Jaeckle and Coyner believe that since the 2005 bond referendum is coming to a close it is time to address the next phase of school improvements and construction.
“Our older schools and communities are long overdue for revitalization, and we will need school projects and community projects to make that happen.
The meals tax is something all together different. While some say they can’t support it at all, others have changed their mind after, they say, learning the facts.
“When I first learned of the meals tax referendum, I had no intention of supporting it. However, after reviewing the facts and setting aside emotions, I concluded that the economic benefits to the community were significant and inaction would be a disservice to our children and educators,” said John Horton, a North Chesterfield resident and Chamber board member. “The Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, of which I am a member, further concluded that it was up to us to step up to the plate and make the difficult and improbable choice to enthusiastically support this new tax.”
Some say they see the problems with the school buildings from an inside prospective.
“I had the pleasure of substituting at Matoaca Elementary the other day – one of the schools that is slated to be rebuilt. It’s a wonderful school, with a very quaint 1950’s village feel – less than 500 students in a patchwork of small buildings with windy hallways. And yet, that quaintness loses its appeal when those hallways flood during a rainstorm, and the kindergartners have to walk through the puddles. Moving through the school is like fast forwarding through the seasons – sweater on – sweater off. And as I walked my 25 small fourth-graders to the busses at the end of the day, I watched the kids try to negotiate a sidewalk that was too narrow for the safety of our children,” said Amy Harbert, President of the Chesterfield County Council of PTAs.