BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Virginia lawmakers are hard at work this session trying to pass legislation that will drastically improve schools across the Commonwealth.
While a number of already proposed bills focus on education, one bill that passed Monday targets repairing older schools across the state.
Senate Bill 472, proposed by Senator Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat representing Richmond, allows any Virginia locality to fund school construction by implementing up to a 1% increase in sales tax.
While the bill has passed, actually making it a reality would mean that increase is passed in a local referendum and voted on by the people.
Only nine Virginia localities had this ability prior to the passing of the bill, and none of those districts were located in Southwest Virginia.
Bristol Virginia Public Schools Superintendent, Keith Perrigan, was in Richmond Monday and Tuesday, specifically focusing on any legislation that would improve campuses across the Commonwealth.
He said the passing of this bill is a game-changer.
“The bill that passed the Senate Monday is one of the many tools that it’s going to take to deal with the infrastructure crisis that we have across the Commonwealth. There’s $25 billion in improvements to be made to Virginia Schools, most of those are in rural areas,” said Perrigan.
Perrigan told News Channel 11 this bill will help those campuses that are very outdated, something he knows all too well. He said the newest campus in Bristol, Virginia is Van Pelt, which was built in 1974. The oldest campus within their district is Virginia Middle School, which was built in 1916.
However, he said it’s unlikely Bristol, Virginia will take advantage of Senate Bill 472 because of the city’s current appealing lower sales tax.
He does believe it will help other districts across Southwest Virginia. “It could be a huge impact and it could be a game-changer for many school divisions who are on the verge of building a new school and doing major renovations, and they just haven’t had the local capacity to do so,” he said.
Several other bills are currently going through the General Assembly pertaining to schools, and Perrigan said while no one bill will dramatically help improve campuses, he does believe a combo of several bills will prove incredibly beneficial.