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Irresponsible spending for North High?

September 04, 2005|By John Williamson

The Mike Callas Stadium Committee appreciates the support received from the Washington County Commissioners by recently allocating an additional $300,000 of state supplied Project Open Space funds for the project.

The committee, however, takes exception to Commissioner Bill Wivell's Aug. 18 column, which stated, "it would be irresponsible to utilize county general fund money" for this project.

County general fund money has been used to build and maintain athletic facilities at every elementary, middle and high school in Washington County just as every other county in Maryland uses general funds to build and maintain schools.

Virtually every high school in Maryland has a stadium on its campus paid for with a combination of state and county funds. Why is it "irresponsible" for North High when every other high school in the county and state have these facilities funded with general funds?

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Approximately 50 percent of Washington County high school students are involved with athletic and band activities. These activities teach important lessons of teamwork and leadership and are crucial part of the educational experience.

The state Board of Education designates these activities as co-curricular, not extra-curricular.

In the next several years, Washington County will begin planning for a new high school in the county. If the county utilizes Commissioner Wivell's definition of "irresponsible," the school will not have a stadium or gymnasium unless Project Open Space funds can be obtained.

The people in the part of the county that will be redistricted to the new school should pay attention because they may be facing 50 years of a county school not having adequate athletic and band facilities. Without these facilities at the new school, another county high school will have to share facilities. (Which school?)

The stadium committee asked the commissioners for 15 percent of the capital cost of Mike Callas Stadium. The county will pay 100 percent of the cost of athletic facilities at a new high school (assuming it has athletic facilities).

We know there are many financial needs for our school system, which is why we have raised $1.9 million from private sources and are committed to raise an additional $700,000. We are concerned when the term "irresponsible" is associated with a group of citizens who have collectively donated thousands of volunteer hours and have raised three times more money from our generous community than has ever been raised before for a public high school in Maryland.

Providing adequate educational facilities including athletic facilities is a function of county government, not private citizens.

Hotel and motel tax revenue can be used for recreational facilities projects such as Mike Callas Stadium. Allocating these funds for the project would not be at the expense of classrooms. This revenue source cannot be allocated to build classrooms.

Included in the 2002-06 County Commissioner initiatives under Education is "Encourage private/public partnerships." We believe there are other groups in the county that can gain from our experience to raise funds for their schools. We believe it would be helpful for the Commissioners to explain exactly what they meant by "Encourage private/public partnerships".

John Williamson is a member of the
Mike Callas Stadium Committee.

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