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Dr. Morgan's task: Finding new funds

July 02, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

On Tuesday Dr. Elizabeth Morgan shed the "interim" from her title as the superintendent of the Washington County school system. We wish her luck in the difficult task if improving the Washington County school system in the next four years.

Morgan, a veteran educator, originally agreed to come to Washington County for one year as the board searched for a new leader after Herman Bartlett Jr. departed.

But Morgan soon decided she would apply for the permanent post, saying she hoped to make the good system she found here even better.

Morgan pledged to improve communication, seek additional grant funding and introduce new programs, like the "magnet" school for the arts now planned for Fountaindale Elementary School. But these aren't her only challenges for the next four years.

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In recent years, county officials have lost out on some state school construction money because they couldn't provide for a local dollar match. In part this is because a previous board of commissioners obtained state authority to levy impact fees, but never implemented them. More recently, the local General Assembly delegation defeated a real estate transfer tax, which would have provided some cash for that purpose.

Morgan needs to lobby for some new funding mechanism, because as development speeds up, the county will have a choice between getting some school construction money from developers and new residents - or forcing existing taxpayers to shoulder an unfair share of the burden.

Elected officials being what they are, the next board of commissioners will resist any change in the status quo. Morgan's chore is to convince the board and the public that growth entails costs which must be paid, unless of course the owners of large tracts of local property will voluntarily agree not to develop it.

That's as unlikely as gold coins raining down from the sky. Finding new funding won't be Morgan's only challenge, but unless she makes progress on that, everything else will be doubly difficult.

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