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Local dollars needed for Jefferson projects

September 26, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

The Jefferson County, W.Va. Board of Education on Tuesday decided it would ask the state's School Building Authority for $17.5 million to help build a new high school and renovate the old one - with only a small contribution from residents. Citizens should remember what happened when this project was considered two years ago.

This week school board members said that in addition to the grants they're seeking from the School Building Authority, they've also asked for $15 million from the state's Economic Development Grant Committee. If they get at least $10 million of that and some cash from impact fees, board members said they might not have to ask county residents for much at all.

That's not how it went two years ago, when the county was asking for just $4 million from the School Building Authority, whose chief told local officials they shouldn't count on getting the whole amount in one year.

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In addition, then-superintendent David Markoe said that the authority had told the board that a local bond issue must pass before it would make an award to Jefferson County. A $39 million bond issue was put on the ballot that month, but was defeated, with two-thirds of those casting ballots rejecting it.

In December 2000, the authority rejected the school board's request for $20 million, saying that it had only $28 million for the entire state and $180 million worth of requests.

Back in 2000, the School Building Authority said it couldn't make multi-year commitments and emphasized that any state grant would have to be matched by local dollars.

Things may have changed since then, but given the state of the economy, we'd bet against it. The bond issue was defeated two years ago in part because of a prevalent rumor that if it was voted down the authority would provide the cash anyway.

It didn't happen then, and is unlikely to happen now. Without dollars in hand, in the form of either an economic development grant or from a local bond issue, we would doubt the authority will approve the board's request. We'd love to see it happen, of course, but we won't be surprised if it doesn't,

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