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Activist questions wisdom of issuing school bonds now

April 17, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Shepherdstown, W.Va., man who proposed a failed moratorium on new home construction in Jefferson County is trying to convince the Board of Education to delay a $36 million bond issue for new schools.

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Paul Burke began lobbying School Board members two weeks ago to hold off on any new bond issue and instead rely on a planned ninth-grade center to relieve crowding.

Doing so would give the county time to implement impact fees, saving taxpayers from footing the bill for new schools, said Burke, who was instrumental in persuading the School Board to vote for a growth moratorium.

Impact fees are charged to developers to help pay for services, such as new schools and more police, that are needed because of population increases.

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"I want to hear what their reason is for doing a bond issue now," Burke said Monday.

Vicki Faulkner, another Jefferson County resident who has raised concerns about development pressures in the county, said some people believe that voting down a school bond issue would help slow growth.

Faulkner said she has not made up her mind about a school bond issue, but she is concerned about her taxes being increased for new schools.

"There's too much growth going on right now," she said.

Two Board of Education members said they are opposed to any effort to delay a bond issue.

There are 26 portable classrooms being used around the county, and Jefferson High School is in extreme need of renovation, according to Board of Education members Pete Dougherty and Larry Togans.

Besides, it would take years to initiate impact fees, Dougherty said, adding, "My problem with that is the only people that are going to suffer are children."

School Board members are considering going to the voters for approval of a bond issue of between $31 million and $36 million.

Money from the bond would be used to pay for a second high school in the county and a $5 million renovation to Jefferson High School.

Board members are considering asking for a special election in September, Dougherty said.

The board has $10.6 million for the ninth-grade center, which will be built next to Jefferson High.

The Board of Education proposes moving ninth-graders into the center from the county's three junior high schools and converting the junior high schools to middle schools.

According to the plan, when a second high school is built, the ninth-graders would be split between the two high schools in the county and the ninth-grade center would become a fourth middle school.

Burke said he believes the center could hold ninth-graders and have room left over to further offset crowding.

Jefferson High School is about 250 students over capacity, Board of Education members say.

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