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Capital funds not enough to cover school projects

September 19, 2000

Capital funds not enough to cover school projects



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


The $4.5 million in capital improvement funds allocated last year by the Washington County Commissioners is not enough to make progress on most of the School Board's planned renovation projects, according to Dennis McGee, the Board of Education's director of facilities management.

The School Board last year asked for $6.2 million in capital improvement funds for fiscal 2002 but received $4.5 million, $1.7 million less than its request.

Because the School Board did not receive the full $6.2 million, some projects must be put on hold, McGee said during a report to board members at Tuesday's work session.

Of that $4.5 million, $2.82 million is going toward renovations at South Hagerstown High School, $974,000 is for renovations at Williamsport Elementary School and $256,000 is for school roofing projects, which leaves little left over for other projects, McGee said.

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"I feel like we're just right back where we were a couple of years ago," McGee said. "We just don't have the money to put out for some of the smaller projects."

Rising construction costs are expected to cause headaches for public school systems throughout the state. The School Board is facing a $1.8 million increase in costs for the Williamsport Elementary School renovation project, from $7.3 million to $9.1 million. The increases are related, in part, to rising construction costs and the need for an extra 4,400 square feet.

Additional classroom space, an expanded media center and a new gym are included in the renovations.

State officials say 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.

About $900,000 in local money will be saved for the Williamsport project by delaying a planned project at Fountain Rock Elementary and new athletic fields at North Hagerstown High School. Another $200,000 is expected to be left over from the second phase of renovations to South Hagerstown High School, McGee has said.

The state will contribute about $800,000.

Over the summer, McGee announced a five-year, $45 million facilities project that would include major renovations to six elementary schools.

Now he said that once the Williamsport work is complete, he doesn't know which, if any, of those projects will be next.

Two weeks ago, the Washington County Budget Advocacy and Review Committee, made up of parents, business people and community leaders, asked the County Commissioners for $6.5 million in capital improvement funds for fiscal 2003.

The committee said that amount would qualify the School Board for state matching funds set aside by Gov. Parris Glendening.

Glendening has allocated $260 million for school capital improvements. If the board receives the $6.5 million from the commissioners, the state would give the board an extra $6.5 million, said Stephen Hummel, chairman of the Review Committee.

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