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County costs for school construction could climb

February 27, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioner Doris Nipps asked state lawmakers Thursday not to shift more of the financial burden of school construction costs onto county government.

The Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation that would change the school construction formula to the detriment of Washington County.

Under the proposal, the state's share of school construction costs in the county would decrease from 65 percent to 59 percent.

As a result, the county would have to pay an extra $3 million for school construction from 2005 to 2010, Nipps told members of the House Appropriations and Ways and Means committees at a hearing Thursday.

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Nipps asked lawmakers to delay the funding formula change to allow for further study.

The proposed formula is flawed because it rewards counties that have gone deep into debt for school construction, she said.

Washington County has been able to avoid high debt through the use of Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance fees, along with excise and transfer taxes, she said.

"We really feel that other jurisdictions who will remain nameless didn't do a lot of planning for growth coming into their county and now they have to play catch-up," she said.

Washington County lawmakers agree and have arranged meetings with members of the task force to press their point, said delegation Chairman Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

A task force has spent more than a year coming up with the new formula, which takes into account a number of factors designed to fairly distribute school construction money.

The task force found there is a $3.9 billion backlog of school construction projects statewide.

To take care of the most critical needs, the state would have to provide $186 million a year over the next decade, according to the report.

In his proposed 2005 budget, Gov. Robert Ehrlich has earmarked $101.6 million, which is the lowest amount in recent years.

A bill by House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, could bring in more than $50 million a year for building and renovating public schools.

Busch's bill would require corporations that sell multimillion dollar office buildings and shopping malls to pay the same property tax paid by homeowners when they sell their property.




On the Web:

HB 1230 and HB 1

mlis.state.md.us

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