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Schools become a $39 million question for Jefferson voters

May 23, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County voters will be asked to approve a $39 million school bond issue during a special election Sept. 23.

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After considering the issue for two weeks, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted 4-1 Tuesday night to conduct the special election.

If passed by voters, the bond issue would fund a new $31 million high school, $6 million in renovations to Jefferson High School and $1.2 million to cover cost increases for a new middle school to be built next to Jefferson High.

For a property owner with a house appraised at $100,000, the bond issue would increase the annual tax bill by about $143.

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That's less than $12 a month, which is not bad, said Superintendent of Schools David W. Markoe.

"It's less than two trips to the movies. And I think that's how we will have to market this," Markoe said after the meeting.

The board voted to hold a special election despite requests to put the issue on the ballot in the Nov. 7 general election, which would cut costs.

Charles Town resident Lori Stilley said county election officials told her the special election would cost about $18,000.

Board members Pete Dougherty and Larry Togans said they feared the state School Building Authority would reject a funding request if the board waited until November.

In addition to the $39 million bond issue, the board plans to request $4 million from the School Building Authority to pay for renovations at every junior high school and every elementary school in the county.

The authority has said the county must pass a bond issue before it will put its money into school construction projects, Markoe said.

Dougherty said that when he spoke with School Building Authority members last week they emphasized that the bond election should be held as soon as possible for the county to get consideration for the authority money.

The board must file its written request for School Building Authority money in October.

Board member Paul Manzuk, who voted against holding the election Sept. 23, said the board could file its written request in October. But the board could wait until the general election to hold the referendum because the School Building Authority does not meet until Nov. 13 and 14 to act on funding requests from individual counties.

"They will have a whole week to determine if they will give us our $4 million. I can't see any reason for pushing this election," Manzuk said.

Dougherty and Togans said the problem with waiting that long is that the School Building Authority will probably have decided by Nov. 7 which counties are going to receive funding this year.

The Board of Education initially considered a $38 million bond issue but had to increase the amount to cover construction cost increases for the new middle school. The board already has $10.6 million for that project.

Discussions about a second high school in the county have been going on for more than a year.

Dougherty said intense population growth is spreading westward from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and the board needs to prepare for it.

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