When Prince William County voters go to the polls in November to choose the next chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, they also may see two bond referendum questions — for $400 million in roadwork and $200 million in park projects.
If voters approve either or both bond referendums, the board members who are elected will begin their four-year term in January with an ambitious to-do list. But the candidates hoping to lead the county have different views on those bond questions.
John Gray, a local accountant and the Republican nominee for chair, said the board should defer its June vote so the new board can decide whether its members want to put the two bond referendums on the ballot.
“We haven’t had that much time to review everything,” Gray said about the potential projects, which were presented to the current board on May 7. “I’m not in favor of the board moving forward with this referendum.”
Gray said he’s concerned about adding debt on top of planned increases in spending.
“They should just defer it to the next board, because the new board — regardless of who it is, I’m not saying it’s me — will have to figure out how to fund this debt,” Gray said. “Waiting another year isn’t going to do anything; none of these [proposed projects] are life-or-death issues.”
Gray said he supports a proposed $84 million indoor sports complex, but would like the county to consider funding it through the local Industrial Development Authority, which offers bond financing for qualified projects.
“This is being sold as a revenue-producing facility,” said Gray. “If it is, I think it should be funded through the IDA.”
Pat O’Leary, chairman of the county’s IDA, said he is not endorsing Gray’s idea, but said the IDA could fund the indoor sports complex through bonds if the supervisors request it to do so. Ann Wheeler, the presumptive Democratic candidate, said she supports the bond referendums. Wheeler is a Haymarket resident and former energy consultant.
Although capital projects for Prince William’s school system is Wheeler’s first priority, she said the parks bond would help improve the quality of life in the county. Funding park projects can bring bigger events — and revenue — to the county, she added.
“The details will be worked out by the next board,” Wheeler said. “Approving [the bonds] doesn’t mean we’re required to spend the money.”
If voters approve the transportation bond referendum, the county could leverage that money to bring in more state and federal aid for these projects, Wheeler noted. The county used a similar tactic to pay some of the cost for projects in bond referendums in 2006.
Don Scoggins, a Woodbridge resident and independent candidate for chair, said he supports the bond referendums. If elected, he said he would make sure the funds are allocated wisely.
Scoggins said he has experience in local and federal government and in real estate.
Jesse Maggitt Jr., also an independent candidate running for chair, said he wouldn’t decide whether to support the bond referendums until he understands the projects’ full impact and how they would affect the budget.