DANVILLE, VA. – Danville Public Schools leaders are asking the community to vote yes on a referendum this fall to fix up aging school buildings. A 1% sales tax increase is proposed to cover the cost and would be eliminated when enough revenue is raised in about 20 to 30 years.
Danville Schools superintendent Angela Hairston wants citizens to think of it as an investment in the city’s future and that opportunity is knocking.
“We need a stable source of income, we need it immediately,” Hairston said. “Most of our schools were built in the 1950′s, if you think about that most of our schools are over 50 years old and just do not meet the needs of today’s students and teachers.”
The division has identified nearly $200 million in possible repairs and additions to its schools. Hairston said a cash injection matches the priority level.
“Buildings matter, classrooms matter, space matters,” Hairston said.
Brandon Atkins is a school board member and the board, as well as City Council support the proposal.
“I know people who have come back to Danville for the first time in a long time and they drive through the River District, they drive by the YMCA, and they’re just amazed by what they see,” Atkins said.
Danville is undergoing a renaissance and leaders said education plays a big part. Atkins said the city’s schools deserve to be upgraded just like the rest of the city.
“You’ll see schools that have an appeal from the outside, they’ll have modern learning environments on the inside with career and technical education offerings that we can not do right now,” Atkins said.
The city would approve a bond of about $130 million to get cash upfront and the tax would pay back the loan over the next two to three decades. Hairston said this effort underscores everything the city is trying to be.
“We feel that that’s one part of the whole pie if you will for improving economic development in our area,” Hairston said.
If the referendum passes, leaders said public input will be critical to any developments. The tax would not apply to grocery or medication sales.