Paul Goldman, the man who formulated Mayor Doug Wilder's now largely defunct City of the Future plan, is taking another whack at reinvigorating a major component of that plan -- new school construction.
The original City of the Future plan proposed offsetting the expensive proposition of school construction with the sale of state historic tax credits available for many of the city's antiquated schools properties. The plan, according to Goldman, could have cut the cost of construction by 25 percent.
Goldman's new plan, which just received the endorsement of the National Education Association, would add the lure of additional tax credits from the federal government to cut the overall cost of construction by 50 percent.
Because city schools are tax exempt, those tax credits, as with the state tax credits, can be made valuable for sale to private developers. Currently, federal tax credits are unavailable to school districts for the purposes of school renovation. (For example, the credits are available if a school is being renovated into luxury condominiums, but not if it's being rehabbed as a school.)
"A half-price sale is a big deal at your department stores," says Goldman, whose original school plan proposed $150 million in school construction projects -- 12 buildings that would, with the sale of tax credits, wind up costing about $75 million. Goldman took his plan to the Richmond School Board this past spring, but received only lukewarm support and no real endorsement.
Enter Princess Moss, president of the Virginia Education Association, who carried Goldman's proposal to the NEA at its July national conference, where it was warmly received.
"Lots of folks had questions, but there were some leaders who could identify with the concern that we had here in Virginia," Moss says. "That industry can purchase old buildings and turn them into condos and get a tax credit for that, but local governments and school boards are prohibited from doing that is wrong. If you look at Richmond, it would be a great benefit -- and if you want to think to the future, you can think about the preschool program. In the reality, we don't have the facilities to house the numbers of preschool children that we have in the commonwealth."(Gov. Tim Kaine has pushed the idea of expanding public school to include preschool education.)
Moss says that Goldman is in discussions with Congressman Bobby Scott to patron legislation, which the NEA would actively lobby to pass.
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