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Bill would benefit Panhandle

February 22, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A bill that could generate up to $3 million a year for new school construction in the Eastern Panhandle has been introduced in the state Legislature.

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In counties that are experiencing growth in student population, Sen. Herb Snyder's bill would allow boards of education to keep new tax money that is generated every year through new development such as housing and shopping malls.

State lawmakers have been considering such a proposal as a way to help Eastern Panhandle school districts offset growing student populations.

In Berkeley County alone, the student population is growing by about 300 students a year.

"I would say it's the most important piece of legislation I have introduced since I have been here," Snyder, D-Jefferson, said Monday.

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But Snyder said selling the idea to the rest of the Legislature could be difficult, and it could take several years to pass such a bill. Del. Vicki Douglas has said it could be hard to get support for such a bill if other lawmakers in the state look at is as a "perk."

"It's a novel idea, but I think it's an extremely good idea," said Snyder.

Currently, local taxes that are collected for schools are combined with tax revenues from other counties across the state. The money is then redistributed to school districts, Snyder said.

Under his bill, the state would continue to receive the current tax revenues from counties, but counties with growing student populations would be able to keep new tax revenue.

Snyder said it would reduce the need for boards of education to go to local taxpayers for more funding to build schools.

The state gives counties extra money to offset new students but offers limited assistance for building schools in which to put them, Snyder said.

A similar idea was pushed by Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, at the beginning of the session. Unger is a co-sponsor of Snyder's bill.

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