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W.Va. authority denies county's request for school funding

December 19, 2000

W.Va. authority denies county's request for school funding



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County's school superintendent - reacting to the announcement that the school system's $20 million request for new school construction would be turned down - said the state needs to come up with a new way of funding new schools.

A local state delegate called the School Building Authority's decison Monday not to give Jefferson County any money "suspicious."

Local school officials were asking for $20 million from the authority to build a second high school in the county and make $4 million worth of renovations to crowded Jefferson High School.

The request came after county voters turned down a proposed $39 million school construction bond, which would have been used to build a second high school.

School Building Authority director Clacy Williams said Jefferson County's school building plan represents about 15 school projects across the state that deserve funding.

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The problem is, there is not enough funding to go around, Williams said Tuesday.

The authority had $180 million worth of funding requests, but only $28 million to dole out.

"There's a bunch of stuff that needs to be done, but they are high-ticket items, and you can't get to them," Williams said.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent David W. Markoe said he thinks the authority should consider spreading a large funding request like Jefferson's over a period of several years so it would be easier to administer.

Markoe said authority officials have told him it would be impossible to spread funding requests over several years because the authority never knows how much money it will have to distribute from year to year.

Markoe said he believes it is something the Legislature should look at.

"At some point, we're going to have to step up and start building this high school," Markoe said Tuesday.

Jefferson High School is 30 years old and is showing signs of deterioration including damage to exterior doors, torn and broken seats in the auditorium and other problems.

The school has been over capacity, and school officials are worried about a surge in the county's school population in coming years.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said he liked Markoe's suggestion that the Legislature study ways of spreading out funding from the school building authority.

But Doyle was more concerned about why the authority turned down the county's request.

Doyle said he believes part of the reason it was rejected is because the authority would rather enlarge Jefferson High than build a second high school in the county.

In slow-growing counties in other parts of the state, school officials have been shutting down smaller schools and consolidating them into larger ones, which has angered some residents, according to Doyle.

Doyle said he believes some officials at the authority are worried about letting Jefferson County keep its high school open and building a new school for fear it would anger people in slower growing counties who want to do the same.

"I am extremely suspicious of the motives of the School Building Authority," Doyle said.

"I'm not sure what Mr. Doyle may have been thinking," Williams said.

The board of education wants to build a second high school instead of expanding Jefferson High School and the authority supports that, Williams said.

Regarding state funding of school construction projects, Williams agrees that there needs to be a new approach. Williams believes a statewide bond issue may be the way to raise money for school construction projects.

Besides the $20 million request from the school building authority, the board of education had also indicated its interest in going to voters again for approval of a $25 million bond referendum to help pay for school construction needs.

The discussion of a bond election is on hold for now, Markoe said.

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