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School Board requests millions for renovations

November 18, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The Washington County Board of Education Tuesday requested $6.2 million in Capital Improvement Program funds for next year, about 77 percent more than is in this year's plan.

The School Board says the increased funds would speed up the pace of school renovation projects.

With the extra money, renovations at Winter Street, Pangborn and Bester elementary schools could be done by 2006, along with work at Hancock Middle/Senior High School, the board said.

If the Washington County Commissioners turn down the request, work at Bester would not begin until 2006 and none of the other projects will be started, according to the board.

The state will distribute about $250 million through its public school construction program, but the county must increase its local contribution for the School Board to get more state money.

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School officials say the county's current funding level prevents them from getting a rightful portion of state money.

"What I'm trying to do is get our fair share," said Director of Facilities Management Dennis McGee.

The County Commissioners have budgeted $17.8 million for CIP projects for fiscal year 2002 and various county departments compete for that money, McGee said.

Road improvements, water and sewer, parks, transportation, bridges, railroad crossings, Hagerstown Regional Airport and Hagerstown Community College are among the projects that need ongoing funding.

The commissioners, who will decide in January how to distribute the money, have set a goal of reducing capital spending.

This budget year's total CIP spending is $26.7 million, but the county plans to drop that to $22.1 million for the next fiscal year that begins in July 2000 and to $17.8 million for the fiscal year that begins July 2001.

In the current fiscal year, the School Board will get $3.5 million, or about 15 percent of the county's CIP funds. The board wants the county to increase its portion to more than 20 percent in the next fiscal year.

With a $3.5 million CIP budget, McGee said no projects will begin during 2002 because the School Board won't be able to request state money.

"We don't have the funds in place to even ask for a project," he said. "We can't maximize what's available to us."

Since Washington County has about 2.5 percent of the state's population and enrollment, it is entitled to 2.5 percent of the state's $250 million, McGee said.

That's $6.2 million that will go elsewhere if the County Ccommissioners don't match it, he said.

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