Va. schools could benefit from historic rehabilitation tax credit

11/26/2013, 3:05 p.m.
To benefit from the tax credit, a building must be considered historic, and facilities 50 years or older are most likely to qualify.

1,227 of Virginia’s school buildings and facilities, more than 60 percent, are 40 years or older according to a new study ordered by Gov. Bob McDonnell and concluded at the beginning of this month. The governor last week released the results of the study that looked at all existing Virginia public school buildings, including those not currently being used.

The study was compiled by the Secretary of Education and the Department of Education. The governor’s office said he ordered the report in August, in order to gain a more accurate picture of the current state of the commonwealth’s educational infrastructure. The report is also meant to demonstrate how a change to the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, to allow for its use in the renovation of older school buildings for continued service as public educational facilities, could benefit the Virginia specifically, and the nation in general.

To benefit from the tax credit a building must be considered historic, and facilities 50 years or older are most likely to qualify.

The governor’s state inventory and summary of divisions and schools found:

• Number of school divisions reporting (100 percent): 132

• Number of schools reported: 2,030

• Number of schools 50 years or older: 817

• Number of schools 40-50 years old: 410

• Total student capacity of buildings: 842,481

“The Department of Education’s review of Virginia’s public school buildings found 1,227 school buildings and facilities in Virginia that could potentially be eligible, now or in the next 10 years, for the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit,” said the governor. “These buildings exist in every region of the state, and service hundreds of thousands of Virginia students.

“Eliminating the ‘prior use’ rule is a commonsense, bipartisan issue supported by Sen. Mark Warner (D), Sen. Tim Kaine (D), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R), Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe (D), and many others. It would enable the private sector to invest in modernizing our schools, while simultaneously saving our localities money.

“This inventory demonstrates in real numbers what establishing equity in this existing federal tax policy would mean for our communities and our students, and I hope it will prove to be helpful in the ongoing efforts to get this legislation passed at the federal level.”

Paul Goldman, the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia and advisor to former Democratic governors, Mark Warner and Doug Wilder, has also been a longtime proponent of modernizing the federal law.

“By fixing a bureaucratic glitch in the IRS code - stuck there for 27 years - Virginia localities could have modern 21st century K-12 facilities at a cost of 35-40 percent less than the federal government requires them to pay now,” said Goldman.