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School board doubles capital plan

November 04, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously adopted a proposal under which its capital plan would more than double as would its request for capital funding from the Washington County Commissioners.

The six-year capital improvement plan, increased to address enrollment growth, calls for building two new elementary schools and a new high school, among other projects.

At the recommendation of Chief Operating Officer William Blum, the school board voted to increase its six-year capital improvement plan to $171.9 million, up from the current six-year program of about $60 million, Blum said.

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For the current fiscal year, the Washington County Commissioners gave the school board $10 million in capital funding, Blum said. That was the amount the board requested, Blum said.

Fiscal years start on July 1.

Under the proposal adopted Wednesday, the school board would ask the Washington County Commissioners for $24.15 million, up from $10 million, in capital funding for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2005.

The proposal can be amended later, school board members said.

Before voting on the plan at its Wednesday night meeting, the board discussed the issue during a two-hour work session Wednesday morning.

Board President Edward Forrest and Vice President Roxanne Ober both expressed concern that the plan might focus on construction of new schools at the expense of improving existing ones. Board members understand that not all schools can be worked on at the same time, Forrest said.

"I know we are going to have to pick and choose," Forrest said. But, he said, "We can't let schools in town decay further."

Forrest and Ober said the proposed plan appeared to delay renovations at Pangborn and Bester elementary schools.

However, Blum later said the proposed plan would not change when renovation of those schools would occur, with planning for the renovation of Pangborn occurring in fiscal year 2009 and planning for Bester occurring in 2010.

The plan includes $10 million for land acquisition.

School board member Jacqueline Fischer suggested the board explore whether any county property owners were interested in donating land to the school system in exchange for having a school named after them.

The fate of one Washington County school remained undecided.

Conococheague Elementary School is scheduled to close in 2006 but Blum has said it might make sense to keep it open to help address projected increases in enrollments as new residential developments in the county are built.

Blum said the board should not change its immediate plans for the school but rather "keep Conococheague in our back pocket."

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