Albo WSHS Renovation Plan

By using the same method that Delegate Dave Albo and local parents developed for the construction of South County Secondary School, West Springfield High School can also be renovated.

BACKGROUND

Like WSHS, SCSS was added to the CIP before there was any funding. A group of parents came up with the idea of a land swap to get a new South County Secondary School built.  Dave Albo combined their land swap idea with a public/private financing and construction method he developed.

Delegate Albo’s research found that Fairfax County had been using the same method of building schools since 1742.  The County acts as both a bond finance expert and as a general construction contractor. The County’s school system raises the money by getting the voters to approve a bond.  Once the bond is sold and the money is available, it acts as the general contractor to build the school.  This dramatically increases costs because not only does the County have to get into the finance business, it also has to get into the construction business.  Since it is a government construction project, contractors on the project have to jump through, literally, hundreds of legal hoops, including open bidding for everything from the plumbers to the asphalt sub-contractors, Labor Union contracts, multiple layers of bureaucracy each wanting change orders and the list goes on.  All these requirements add a minimum of 15% to the cost.[1]

Research shows that school systems in Florida, Texas, and New York have successfully bypassed this inefficient and costly method.  They put together architectural plans and ask private companies to finance and build their projects.  Then, they determine what the monthly payments would be to purchase the school over 15 years.  

This public/private construction method does two things:  It drops the price by at least 15% because private companies do not have to go through all the government construction red tape, and by building the school quickly, as opposed to waiting years to come up with the Wall Street bond money, the school can be built at current prices.  Thus, the cost of the school is often dramatically less.

Fairfax County knew that SCSS was desperately needed and they decided to take a chance on the Albo and local parent plan.  Fairfax County contracted with Clarke Construction (the main contractor of the successful I-95/395/495 “Mixing Bowl” reconstruction) to build Virginia’s first privately financed and privately constructed school.  When Fairfax used this public/private construction method, SCSS was built faster (in ½ the time than was originally planned on the CIP) and at a 33% savings over what it would have cost had the County waited to build it using its traditional bond financing/general contractor method.  Because of the success of South County, Dave Albo’s innovative school construction method was codified into the Virginia Code as the Public/Private Education Act (PPEA).

USING THE ALBO PLAN TO RENOVATE WSHS

WSHS is 300,000 square feet.  In 2008 it would have cost $181/sf to renovate a school ($54.3 million for WSHS).  Due to the recession prices have now dropped to $136/sf ($40.8 million).  In addition, there are five other high schools (the “Legacy 5”) built in the 60’s which have never been renovated.

With so many in schools in the same situation, a buying group could offer a volume discount. [2]

If the County renovates all the Legacy 5 schools now, as opposed to waiting until prices return to 2008 levels, the county will save $13.5 million on each school.  That’s a whopping $67.5 million in savings on the Legacy 5 renovations!  Additionally, if these are bid out as privately constructed schools, instead of having the government as general contractor, a savings of 15% ($6.12 million per school / $30.6 million savings for all five schools) can be expected.

Fairfax County has a choice to either wait and build all the schools as planned over the next 12 years and pay $271.5 million (300,000sf x $181 x 5 schools), or to renovate them all now under the public / private partnership plan that built SCSS and pay $204 million (300,000sf x $136 x 5 schools).

THE NUMBERS WORK TO BUILD WSHS NOW AT A 35%  DISCOUNT

Albo’s Plan

Cost to Renovate WSHS/Cost to Renovate all Legacy 5 Schools

Current Plan

Cost to Renovate WSHS/Cost to Renovate all Legacy 5 Schools

Cost in Millions

$40.8 / $204

$54.3 / 271.5

Date WSHS Renovation Can Begin

2010

2021

The prices in the chart above are very conservative. It is possible to anticipate an additional discount of 15% because the private sector is consistently more efficient and another 2% reduction for wrapping up all five projects into one.  This would be a total cost for WSHS of $34 million.  And if we get these savings for all Legacy 5 schools, the total County bill would only be $170 million.

CONCLUSION

The citizens of the WSHS neighborhood can most effectively promote the PPEA method if they join together with the other four legacy high schools in need of renovation.  Collectively, renovating the Legacy 5 by this method has the potential to save Fairfax County no less than $67.5 million and up to $101.5 million over the next decade!  Additionally, with the five schools in a buying group, there is five times the voting power on the School Board.  In the end, it all comes down to votes.[3]

With the money it saves, the County could ultimately pump more money into the classroom to lower class size, or even over time, lower property taxes.

As things usually work, there will likely be opposition to this proposal.  But unlike when SCSS was built, the plan has now been proven to work in Virginia.  Also, SCSS was approved by the Board when only two of the members had constituents affected by the new school.  With the five schools in a buying group, there is five times the voting power.  The plan was scoffed at when it was presented for SCSS, but the citizens and the County did not listen to the naysayers and now there is a school.  WSHS citizens can join together to demand the same thing.

Further questions or suggestions can be sent to:

Delegate Dave Albo

6367 Rolling Mill Place Ÿ Suite 102 Ÿ Springfield, VA  22152

(703) 451-3555 Ÿ Dave@DaveAlbo.com


[1] Both the Commonwealth Competition Council and Federal Office of Management and Budget estimate up to 30% savings caused by contractors in competition with each other.  By assuming a very conservative estimate of only 15%, the savings could actually be much higher.

[2] Like WSHS, Herndon, Oakton, Langley, and Falls Church high schools were all built in the 1960’s and are also in need of renovation.  This group of five schools has been referred to as the “Legacy 5.”

[3] Liz Bradsher, the local School Board representative is committed to the plan, but she is just one of eleven votes.  In order to get a majority, there must be an incentive for other School Board members to vote for the plan.

One response to “Albo WSHS Renovation Plan

  1. Pingback: Press Release: Delegate Albo on WSHS « Delegate Dave Albo's Blog

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