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Commissioners asked to fund school improvements

September 05, 2000

Commissioners asked to fund school improvements



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


A group that reviews the Washington County Board of Education's budget has asked the County Commissioners for $6.5 million in capital improvement funds for fiscal 2001-02.

The Budget Advocacy and Review Committee, which consists of parents, business people and community leaders, said the funding is necessary to properly educate the county's students. The committee addressed the Board of Education at its Tuesday night meeting.

The $6.5 million would be a $2 million increase over the $4.5 million allocated by commissioners for the 2000-01 capital improvement plan, according to Stephen L. Hummel, chairman of the Budget Advocacy and Review Committee.

Hummel said the $6.5 million requested would qualify the Board of Education for state matching funds set aside by Gov. Parris Glendening. Glendening has allocated $260 million for capital improvements. If the board receives the $6.5 million from commissioners, the state would give the board an extra $6.5 million.

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He also said because of increasing construction costs and because many of the county's schools are 30 years or older and need repairs, the board needs all the funding it can get.

Last month, board administrators announced it would have to delay two planned projects in part to help make up for the rising construction costs.

According to the state, the price of building or renovating a school is going to jump from $116 per square foot to $136 per square foot by July 2001, a 17 percent increase.

One of the delayed projects was a $700,000 renovation to Fountain Rock Elementary, which was set to begin in 2002. Renovations included a new classrooms, a kitchen and a cafeteria.

"Personally, I think that it is a disgrace that we have been putting off adding a cafeteria to a school that was built in the seventies due to lack of (capital improvement plan funding)," Hummel said. "Two generations of students have eaten lunch at their desks while listening to stories of how nice the cafeteria will be when we have adequate funding to the CIP."

The other project put on hold was building new athletic fields at North Hagerstown High School for $200,000.

"....We cannot continue to move money that has been allocated from future projects," Hummel said. "This robbing Peter to pay Paul process is, to say the least, not fiscally responsible."

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