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School board asks for construction funds

January 12, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

School officials asked the Washington County Commissioners again Tuesday to increase funding for a five-year capital improvement plan.

During a joint meeting of the Washington County Board of Education and the commissioners at Fountaindale Elementary School, School Board Director of Facilities Management Dennis McGee gave an update of the improvement plan, which outlines new construction.

Last year, the County Commissioners approved the School Board's plan for budget years 2000 to 2004. The commissioners agreed to fund $3.5 million in budget year 2000, at least $3 million in 2001 and a minimum of $2.5 million in 2002.

From 1992 to 1996, the county commissioners gave $5 million to the school's construction plan, according to McGee. But the funding level dropped and has remained below $4 million for the last several years.

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McGee asked the commissioners Tuesday to give the School Board $5 million in the 2001 budget year. The increase would make Washington County eligible for more state money, he said.

It would pay for the start of construction and renovations at Salem Avenue, Bester and Maugansville elementary schools a year earlier, he said. Pangborn Elementary's renovations also could be included in the five-year plan.

The county has 19 schools that are between 25 and 30 years old, said McGee. Many of those schools have no air conditioning and heating is unreliable, McGee said. As the system ages, the need for new schools becomes greater.

In the last three years, the state approved all of Washington County's 23 requests, "because we haven't asked for the moon," McGee said.

This year, the Interagency Committee for School Construction has $250 million to distribute. Each county must match a percentage of the funds it receives. Washington County is asking for $3.4 million because it has limited matching funds, McGee said.

"If we were at $5 million, that would make us eligible for more funds from the state," he said.

Washington County has 2.4 percent of the state's students, according to McGee. On a per capita basis, the county would be entitled to as much as $6 million of the state's construction budget, he said.

"We could catch back up," said Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett. "The real issue we're looking at, long term, is 19 schools built in the 70s coming into a 40-year cycle. We've got a problem that can be worked out presently and we think successfully."

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