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Maugansville school fixup to be postponed

January 08, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - State budget shortfalls and planning questions are forcing the Washington County Board of Education to postpone by two years its plans to renovate Maugansville Elementary School and subsequently close Conococheague Elementary School.

In a School Board work session Tuesday, Director of Facilities Management Dennis McGee told the board that the state plans this year to distribute $78.5 million among its 24 school districts, a $231.5 million cut in funding from past years.

The School Board depends on the state and county for funding for school construction projects.

In addition, McGee said, the state did not approve the School Board's plans to renovate Maugansville Elementary School because it had "outstanding questions" about the closing of Conococheague Elementary, the results of a feasibility study and any land purchases the school system would have to make.

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Chief Operating Officer William Blum said since the feasibility study for the Maugansville project is not complete, the state didn't know whether the school system would need to buy additional land.

After the business meeting Tuesday, Blum said the state has told the School Board its funding will be slashed, which for makes the Maugansville work questionable.

Blum said the School Board's only hope is that the Washington County Commissioners will fund the project. He said the commissioners have committed to giving the school system $5 million for school construction projects in the next fiscal year. In order to keep the Maugansville project on a schedule to be completed by 2007, Blum said he wants to ask the commissioners next spring for $9.2 million.

McGee said Work on Salem Avenue Elementary School will begin this spring as planned because the state has approved funding of the $12.2 million expansion and renovation project.

This year, the School Board included in its capital improvement plan an additional $600,000 to buy portable classrooms and $300,000 to renovate Washington County Technical High School's pending print shop relocation, Blum said. That funding has not yet been approved, Blum said.

McGee said the School Board's capital improvement plan has long been based on an average annual state allowance of $200 million for school construction projects statewide.

Over the 30-year history of the Public School Construction Program, Washington County has typically received 2.5 percent of the state's annual funding, he said.

The state gave the School Board $2.003 million for fiscal year 2004, the least it's received in eight years.

McGee said that without additional funding from the county, additional renovation projects likely will be delayed if state funding remains tight.

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