ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County Public Schools could handle an influx of new students in the Bethesda area from increased development in Westbard if new school additions and buildings come online in time to ease overcrowding.
Glenn Orlin, the deputy council administrator, briefed the Montgomery County Council Tuesday during a work session on the plan that would bring thousands of new residents to the southwestern part of the county.
“Those students can be accommodated in 2030 by some additions,” said Orlin, adding new schools are due to be built during the next six to seven years.
He called the additions and new buildings “all very likely, very possible and affordable” within a 25-year timeframe.”
Council Vice President Roger Berliner (D-At large) said if the County Council adopts the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee’s recommendations, Westbard would add “something on the order of 1,138 new units” to Bethesda.
His tally included 135 townhouses, 485 multi-family mid-rise units and 516 multi-family high-rise units.
That would add 99 elementary school students, 43 middle school students and 53 high school students, according to Berliner.
“We are reducing the scope of this plan by more than half which is certainly greater than any plan I’ve been involved with,” said Berliner, later noting the $12.5 million expected from the development to address school impact would be enough to pay for the additions “necessary to accommodate these kids.”
Berliner said construction would first start with the Equity One shopping center site, with the 135 townhouses, while the high-rise, multifamily units would come in another five years.
“We are talking about far fewer kids. We are talking about school additions that have been planned,” said Berliner.
Council member Craig Rice (D-2) noted the school impact tax generated from the development would not enough to fund a new school building.
He said elementary school costs tend to be between $25 million to $27 million, $50 million for middle schools and $112 million to $115 million for high schools.
A memo prepared by Orlin noted there are “three sector plans underway that would add public school students to this portion of the county: Westbard, Bethesda CBD, and Lyttonsville.”
County staff reviewed capacity numbers in the Whitman and Bethesda-Chevy Chase Clusters for the full Westbard Sector Plan, not the PHED Committee’s recommendation.
Council staff “assumed most elementary schools could be increased to 740 students” during the next 14 years.
Pyle Middle School could be increased to 1,502 students, Westland Middle School and the new B-CC Middle School No. 2 could be enlarged to 1,200 students each.
Additions to B-CC High School and Walt Whitman High School would raise their capacities up to 2,407 students and 2,398 students, respectively.
That includes adding 724 students for B-CC High School and 507 students to Whitman High School.
However, Whitman would still be overcapacity unless it was raised to 2,900 students, an increase of 1,109 students from its current capacity of 1,891 students.
That would require an increase of 1,109 students from its current capacity.
On Feb. 2, 11 parent-teacher associations and school cluster coordinators sent a letter to council members saying the Planning Board put “blind faith in MCPS demographers” to accurately predict the student numbers.
Orlin and the student leaders both noted past MCPS projections have been off, though they disagreed by the amount.
During a 30-year period, the Westbard development is expected to bring $529 million “in added income, property, energy, transfer, and recordation tax revenue, compared to about $299 million in added operating expenditures needed to serve that development, a net surplus of $230 million,” according to Orlin’s memo.
“If only 75 (percent) of the proposed development were to build out, the Plan would generate about $459 million in revenue compared to $260 million in added operating costs, a net surplus of $239 million.”
After factoring in certain one-time revenue and bonds spent on infrastructure, the net surplus if Westbard is completely built out would be about $205 million, spread out over the course of 30 years.
Debt service would cost the County $72.2 million for $45 million of capital expenses.
However, the County would make back money on impact tax revenue for schools ($21.5 million) and transportation ($18.9 million), along with recordation taxes totaling $6.3 million.
That puts the net capital costs at $25.4 million, according to Orlin’s memo.