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Snyder's school funding bill clears W.Va. Senate

March 04, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A bill that would allow high-growth counties such as Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan to keep a larger portion of property taxes for new school construction passed the state Senate Wednesday, Sen. Herb Snyder said.

Snyder, who has been guiding the legislation through the Senate, said the funding comes from property taxes on new homes and other new properties in a county.

When a new home is entered into a county's tax books, part of the property tax from the home goes to the County Commission, part of it goes to education and other portions may go to levies or bonds, Snyder, D-Jefferson, said in an interview from Charleston, W.Va., Wednesday.

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The education portion is funneled to Charleston and becomes part of the school aid funding distributed to all 55 counties, Snyder said.

Other sponsors of the bill include state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley.

Under the proposal, the portion of the property tax that goes to education would be kept by a growth county the first year the new house appears on the tax books, Snyder said.

In order for a county to qualify for the money, its school system must have at least 50 new students a year for three years within a five-year time period, Snyder said.

The only counties in the state that would qualify today are the three Eastern Panhandle counties, Snyder said. If the bill had been in place today as law, Berkeley County would receive $719,631, Jefferson County would get $533,507 and Morgan County would get $98,463, Snyder said.

Obtaining more money for school construction has been a high priority for local school systems as they deal with rapid student population growth.

Delores Milstead, vice president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, said Snyder came up with the idea after he met with board members in January to hammer out an education agenda for the Legislature.

"It's pretty exciting and very creative," Milstead said Wednesday.

Snyder said lawmakers have been receptive to the idea and he is optimistic about its passage.

Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, said he has not had a chance to study the bill but will do so.

Duke, said it has been difficult for House members to keep up with Senate bills because they have been busy with their own work.

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