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School board benefits from estate gifts

February 16, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A Maryland estate law has made it possible for some Washington County Board of Education school bands to get interest-free loans to pay for uniforms and instruments, the county school system's finance director said.

Under state law, when someone dies without a will or an heir, the estate goes to the local board of education, according to the Maryland Register of Wills Internet site.

Washington County Board of Education Finance Director Chris South said he has heard no complaints or heard of any problems with the board of education getting the money.

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The law with this provision has been in place for more than 20 years, John Bloyer, Washington County Register of Wills, said Sunday.

Due to the law, the Washington County Board of Education presently has a total of about $190,000 in a fund kept separate from the main board budget, South said. The total amount each year has remained in the $150,000 to $200,000 range for at least 10 years, he said.

Some of the money is saved at all times in case someone makes a legitimate claim for the funds, South said.

But some of the money, currently about $87,000, goes into interest-free loans to school programs. In the past, the loans have paid for school band uniforms, instruments and other causes, South said.

Other projects funded through the loans include uniforms for show choirs and playground equipment, he said.

If a school booster club wants to build a concession stand but does not have the money to pay for it, the program provides a source of credit that normally would not be available, he said.

The Board of Education decides, as part of its annual budget process, which schools and school-related groups applying for the loans will receive them, South said. The decision usually is made in May, he said.

With tight education budgets, the law makes it possible for the school system to provide money to projects and causes that it can't always pay for in the regular budget, Board President Edward Forrest said.

"It is a good resource for us," he said.

The requests usually come from sports clubs and band boosters, he said.

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