WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJHL) – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke on Wednesday about a potential federal funding stream for aging schools in the form of historic rehabilitation tax credits (HTC).

In a call with the press, Kaine discussed he and his colleague Mark Warner’s (D-VA) reintroduced bill to open historic tax credits for public school renovations. As it stands, those who renovate buildings on the National Register of Historic Places can apply for tax relief of varying degrees. When those structures are renovated, however, their new purpose cannot be the same as their purpose beforehand.

Kaine’s legislation, which he hopes will be rolled into a larger tax reform bill, would allow public schools to remain as educational institutions after the renovation.

“I’m hoping that this can be a strategy that would be a valuable strategy for communities all over the country in renovating schools,” Kaine said.

The program has been used to provide significant facelifts to buildings throughout the country, Kaine said, but is limited in its ability to improve historic schools without stripping them of their purpose.

“Why should you have to change the use of a school building?” Kaine asked. “Why shouldn’t you be able to get the tax credit and update it so that it can be fit for 21st-century education for the same school kids that were going there five years ago, for those that follow them?”

Kaine added that the process of renovation is often much cheaper for struggling local governments than the design and construction of completely new buildings. In addition to amenities, Kaine said renovated schools send a better message to students.

“Old, dilapidated structures, kids absorb a message when they walk into it,” Kaine said. “Like ‘Wow, this must not be that important, or the community would care to make sure that the facility was in OK shape.'”

According to a 2021 report from the Virginia Department of Education, the median age of school buildings in Southwest Virginia was 58 years. The state average at the time was 52 years.

“It’s a little bit of a recycle and reuse mentality,” Kaine said. “It doesn’t always have to be new. If there’s still serviceable life, why not outfit it for 21st-century education?”