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Underwood says school aid formula needs revision

March 23, 2000

Gov. UnderwoodBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Gov. Cecil Underwood said Thursday West Virginia needs to revamp its school funding formula to help fast-growing counties deal with booming enrollment.

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Underwood said the state has tried to give Berkeley - the state's fastest growing county - as much money as it can through the School Building Authority and the school aid formula.

But funding through the School Building Authority is not always guaranteed.

To give growing counties consistent funding for new school construction, Underwood said he believes the best solution would be to change the school formula.

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"This is a very important public policy issue," Underwood said.

Underwood made the comments while touring U.S. Silica's Berkeley Springs headquarters and did not say if he had specific ideas for changing the funding method.

The assistant superintendent of finance for Berkeley County Schools said changing the school aid formula to give growing counties more money for school construction would require major changes in the law.

James Welton said he has never heard of any discussion about changing the school aid formula in that way.

The school aid formula is the main source of state revenue that goes to counties for operation of schools. It is based on enrollment and staffing and is mostly intended for daily operations of schools, Welton said.

About 65 percent of Berkeley County's funding comes from the school aid formula, Welton said.

While in Berkeley Springs, Underwood also said he is not sure how much money will be available in the state budget to move Shepherd College's Community and Technical College to Berkeley County.

It is estimated it would cost between $200,000 and $500,000 to lease and renovate a building for the community college, and Shepherd College President David L. Dunlop said he is hopeful Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, can find some money in the state budget for the project.

Underwood said there may be some money in the budget for the community college, but it "will be tight."Dunlop said he hopes to learn by May or June whether the money can be located.

Local business leaders and educators have stressed the need for a community college in Berkeley County to offer much-needed work force training to county residents.

Underwood said he toured the U.S. Silica plant so he could better understand new quarry regulations that were passed in the recent session of the Legislature. U.S. Silica executives gave input on the regulations during the development of the bill, Underwood said.

Underwood stood on a hill overlooking a valley where the plant mines silica sand. Sand has been mined at the site since 1868.

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