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Legislator want to use slot machine revenues to fund schools

January 05, 2001

Legislator want to use slot machine revenues to fund schools



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A local lawmaker Thursday night proposed taking a share of slot machine revenue at the Charles Town Races to give the cash-starved school system the funding it needs.

Del. Dale Manuel's proposal was met by both support and concern.

Sen. John Unger said the state would be sliding down a "slippery slope" if it starts looking at additional gambling proceeds to fund public education.

And the proposal would be unfair to growing counties that do not have a race track, said Unger, D-Berkeley.

Manuel said he has started drafting legislation that would give a percentage of slot machine revenue to Jefferson County Schools.

Although he did not mention specific numbers, Manuel said he would set a cap on the amount of money that could be generated through slot machines at the track. For any income generated above that cap, a percentage of that money would go to the school system, said Manuel, D-Jefferson.

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Track officials could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

The discussion came during a meeting between the Jefferson County Board of Education and four local lawmakers. They met in an effort to find ways to get Jefferson County Schools the funding needed to build new schools.

School officials are concerned about a growing student population projected for the county in coming years, but two attempts to get funding for new schools failed this year.

In September, county voters turned down a proposed $39 million school construction bond that would have been used to build a second high school. Last month, the state School Building Authority rejected a $20 million request to build the high school.

Lawmakers said they will consider a number of school construction funding proposals in this session of the Legislature, which begins next month.

The proposals include creating a separate pot of money for rapidly growing counties and changing the funding formula used by the School Building Authority so growth counties would get higher consideration for state money.

Although everyone at the meeting agreed schools need more funding, finding money for the proposals may be tough, said Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson.

Snyder said the Legislature will have to deal with a $60 million shortfall in the Public Employees Insurance Agency. Dealing with that problem is probably going to overshadow everything else, said Snyder.

Snyder suggested the county school system consider having private developers build new schools and leasing the buildings to the school system.

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