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School bond issue on tap in Berkeley County

March 06, 2001

School bond issue on tap in Berkeley County



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


Voters in Berkeley County will be asked this fall to approve a bond measure to build schools and renovate some existing ones, the county schools superintendent said Monday.

The date and details of the specific ballot measure have not yet been determined, said Superintendent of Schools Manny Arvon.

The public vote will be the second phase of a three-phase program to build and renovate schools to keep up with the growth in Berkeley County.

The program was approved in the late 1990s after many public meetings and a study of future needs, he said.

"Sixty-five percent of the increase in school population in the state is occurring in Berkeley County schools," Arvon said. The district anticipates adding at least 3,500 students and perhaps as many as 5,000 in the next decade, similar to what was added in the past 10 years. The district now has more than 13,000 students, including 435 who were added this school year.

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Voters last approved a bond issue in 1995. That paid to build three schools and renovate two others at a cost of $35 million. Two new intermediate schools, at Eagle School Road and Boyd Orchard Road, are under construction now, with 92 percent of the money coming from the West Virginia School Building Authority. The cost of those schools is about $11 million, or $5.5 million each.

"That's very unusual" to have the building authority pay for that much, Arvon said. Its willingness to do so shows that personnel understand the need and the work Berkeley County schools bring to putting proposals together, he said.

The school district will wait and see what the Legislature may do with the School Building Authority during its session this year, Arvon said.

"We would like to see the School Building Authority be able to commit to multi-year funding," he said. School districts now must apply each year for specific funding.

"It's very difficult for us in receiving financing on a yearly basis," because it makes long-range planning more difficult, he said. The authority has about $25 million to spend annually, and districts submit requests for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects, he said.

"We know it's going to be a partnership between Berkeley County schools and the state building authority," he said. He said he anticipates the next bond issue will be split 2-1, with two-thirds coming from local residents.

Based on past efforts, "we know our community will support" the bond proposal, he said.

Arvon said it's hard to say where specific projects might be placed under the new bond proposal.

"You can't just say there's one place in the county that's growing and others that aren't," he said.

The Marlowe area is expanding rapidly, and with a new sewer line being completed in the south part of the county, that area will grow as well, he said. And Martinsburg is upgrading its water service, which will bring more people.

Arvon noted that 10 portable buildings were brought in for the current school year to handle growth. Whatever the final bond proposal, it will simply take care of the existing number of students. Phase 3 would handle future growth, he said.

Committees are being assembled now to work on the proposal, Arvon said. He anticipates the school board will seek a vote in September or October.

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