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Hardin says redistricting plan is worthless without money

December 31, 2001

Hardin says redistricting plan is worthless without money



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


As the Washington County Board of Education moves closer to a vote on the redrawing of school boundaries and possible renovations or school closings, one school board member said Sunday that any scenarios the board approves would be worthless without the money to carry them out.

"If the money is not there, it's just a waste of planning time," said J. Herbert Hardin. "If the money isn't there, we're just dreaming."

Two of the 12 recommendations made by the board-appointed Blue Ribbon Redistricting Committee call for the renovations of the aging Maugansville and Conococheague elementary schools. The remaining 10 recommendations deal with increasing or alleviating enrollment at some schools by redrawing school boundaries.

The School Board will hold two public work sessions in the beginning of January to discuss the recommendations the committee approved and rejected and to consider any other redistricting proposals brought before the board.

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The first work session is scheduled for Friday from noon to 2:30 p.m. The second will be held on Jan. 8 from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The board is tentatively scheduled to vote on all of the recommendations on Jan. 22. All meetings will be held at the board's central office on Commonwealth Avenue.

The committee had rejected a proposal that called for closing Maugansville and Conococheague and building another school in the Maugansville area. The Maugansville students would have been sent to the new school and the Conococheague students would have been sent to four different schools under the proposal.

School Board President Edward Forrest said it's likely the board will bring the rejected proposal back to the table. School officials have said closing both schools would save the school system millions in staffing and renovation costs.

"It's something that we have to look at," he said.

Regardless of whether the board votes to close or renovate Conococheague and Maugansville, both scenarios would be the most costly to the board. Hardin said the school system doesn't have the money to pay for the possible expenditures.

"It's like going shopping before Christmas and not having any checks or credit cards," Hardin said.

Board administrators have said renovating Maugansville and Conococheague would cost $14.2 million. Closing both schools and building a new one would cost $11.1 million, a savings of $3.1 million.

The board receives about $4.5 million a year from the Washington County Board of Commissioners for capital improvement projects and also receives money from the state.

Gov. Parris Glendening, however, has recently announced that he is slicing $100 million from the $250 million it usually distributes annually among the state's 24 school systems for capital improvements, Hardin said. School officials say it's likely that the governor's cuts will decrease the amount of state funds Washington County receives.

"That's telling me that money is not going to be there," Hardin said.

Forrest said in addition to the potential costs related to Maugansville and Conococheague, the board might be faced with transportation costs if it approves any redistricting recommendations.

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