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Schools, growth top list in 55th

April 30, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The race for West Virginia's 55th House of Delegates seat will be decided in next Tuesday's primary election when Democrats John Doyle and Bob Tabb face each other.

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Because no Republicans filed to run in the primary, the winner of the Democratic primary will have no opposition in the Nov. 7 general election, said Jefferson County Clerk John Ott.

Doyle, the incumbent, and Tabb are running on the same issues: getting Jefferson County the education facilities it needs, helping counties impose the Local Powers Act and helping them resolve other growth-related problems.

Doyle believes he is in the right position to help Jefferson County schools.

Doyle said he is working with legislative attorneys on the Recht decision, a 1982 Kanawha County Circuit Court decision that directed how school funding would be managed in the state.

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The ruling said the state's method of paying for public education was unconstitutional because it favored wealthier counties by relying too heavily on county taxes. Judge Arthur Recht, who handed down the 1982 decision, said funding to counties must be equal.

On July 31, Recht is expected to review the case again, and by working with legislative attorneys, Doyle said he hopes to convince the judge that there is still unfairness in system, particularly in the Eastern Panhandle.

Doyle said he hopes attorneys can effectively show Recht that Panhandle counties do not receive the same amount of funding that counties in neighboring states get for teacher salaries and school construction. And because school funding has evened out among the state's 55 counties, that is unfair to the Panhandle because the cost of living here is higher, Doyle said.

Doyle said he hopes Recht will change his decision to help Panhandle counties get the funding they need for salaries and school construction.

And since he is vice chairman of the House of Delegates Finance Committee, Doyle said he is in a position to direct extra school money to the Panhandle if Recht changes his decision.

Doyle said he also wants to continue work on getting Jefferson County its own vocational school and giving counties the ability to pass an "adequate facilities ordinance."

The adequate facilities ordinance would fall under the Local Powers Act, the law that allows counties to pass impact fees. An adequate facilities ordinance states to developers that they cannot build homes in an area unless there are adequate services such as schools, police and fire protection, Doyle said.

Doyle said there are other issues people are concerned about, "but those are the ones that are on more minds than any other."

Tabb said too many students are missing a chance to further their education because Jefferson County does not have a vocational school. Any county student who wants to pursue a vocational program must go to James Rumsey Technical Institute near Hedgesville, W.Va., but the 45-minute drive often hampers students from obtaining an education there, said Tabb.

"People need an education, whether its higher education or vocational education," Tabb said.

Locally, the issue with the biggest impact is growth, Tabb said. Although the Local Powers Act gives counties the ability to charge developers impact fees to pay for services like fire and police protection and new schools, it is a complicated law to deal with, Tabb said.

Tabb said he wants to change the law to make it easier to implement, something some lawmakers tried in last year's session of the Legislature.

Tabb said he is also concerned about overcrowding in schools.

"My job is to go to Charleston and educate the Legislature and the governor. We need some help to deal with this," Tabb said.

After Gov. Cecil Underwood held a cabinet meeting in Shepherdstown last September, he said he felt he better understood the Panhandle's growth problems.

Tabb said he is still not impressed with Charleston's reaction to the area's challenges.

"I haven't seen anything come here yet. Talk is good but action is better."

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