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Schools get half of funds requested

July 07, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

karenh@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools will receive about half of the $12 million it requested from the state for school construction next year.

According to Rodney Turnbough, director of facilities management, more than $1.9 million in state money will fund the completion of renovations and an addition to Salem Avenue Elementary School.

More than $4.1 million will go toward the design and construction of a school to replace Maugansville Elementary School, Turnbough said.

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The office of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced Wednesday the state will spend $247 million on school construction this fiscal year. According to a press release, the money includes $6,169,000 for the Salem Avenue and Maugansville projects.

David Lever, executive director of the state's Public School Construction Program, told the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee that state school districts had submitted $595 million in construction requests for the fiscal year.

Turnbough said the system learned in the spring it would receive around $6 million for construction. It had requested $12.1 million from the state, including more than $9.8 million for the Maugansville school.

Turnbough called the funding "generous," though the money falls short of the system's request.

The Washington County Commissioners voted in May to give the schools almost $12.7 million to fund capital projects.

The commissioners' budget includes funding for renovations at Pangborn and Salem Avenue elementary schools and the construction of Westfields Elementary School.

According to Chief Operating Officer G. William Blum, the school system has a backlog of more than $100 million worth of maintenance work. He called the state funding "a start."

"I won't say I'm satisfied, but I will say it's a good start to solving the problem, to attempting to solve the problem," Blum said.

Turnbough said the system's requests reflected the intention to pay for projects all at once. The system, which is anticipating rapid growth in the next few years, now will have to wait to receive the balance of funding, Turnbough said.

Other proposed projects on the schools' capital improvements program include the construction of an East City Elementary School and an East City High School.

"If the economy improves, we'll be in a lot better shape, but it all depends on the revenue that the state has. I can't predict it," Turnbough said.

Turnbough said as the system has become more aggressive in its construction requests, the state's finances have become tighter.

"In years past, there was state money left on the table. Now there is not enough money to go around for all the projects that have been identified and justified," Turnbough said.

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