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County requests a piece of the school funding pie

January 19, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - At a designated Board of Public Works meeting every year, school officials from all over Maryland line up to ask for a little more money for capital projects in their respective counties.

Annapolis insiders call it "The Beg-a-thon."

This year, with several new elementary school projects on the table, Washington County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell thought he would sweeten the local appeal a little by bringing along some fruit pies - one for each of the three board members - Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.

But somehow, the board got uncharacteristically ahead of schedule, and after driving to Annapolis from Hagerstown, Wivell missed the presentation by William Blum, chief operating officer of Washington County Public Schools, seeking money for Maugansville Elementary School, Pangborn Elementary School and the proposed Westfields Elementary School south of Hagerstown.

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Blum said the school system was seeking $391,000 to complete funding for the Maugansville project, which replaces the old school with a new structure. The state has committed a total of more than $6 million to the Maugansville school, nearly a third of the total $21 million estimated cost.

Additionally, Washington County Public Schools asked for planning and funding approvals of up to $6.8 million for a project to modernize or replace Pangborn Elementary School, and planning and funding approvals of up to $9.3 million for Westfields Elementary School.

In written testimony he prepared for the board, Wivell said Pangborn's enrollment is at 117 percent of rated capacity, and the new construction would make room for an additional 250 students. The total estimated cost of that project is $22.5 million, he said.

Though he missed the formalities, Wivell and Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, went to see the board anyway.

"The governor waved us in; he told me (the accelerated schedule) was just the efficiency in government of this administration," Shank said.

And Wivell gave the board the pies - one apple, one cherry and one blueberry.

"I remembered that when we were making our presentation, we were interrupted" when First Lady Kendel Ehrlich sent over a birthday cake for Schaefer, Wivell said. "So I thought I'd bring some pie."

So far, the state's Interagency Committee on School Construction has recommended earmarking nearly $4.5 million for Washington County school construction projects for fiscal year 2007, with $2.4 million of that going to Maugansville and the rest divided between capital projects at nine other schools.

Decisions about any further funding will be announced later. Blum said making the Pangborn and Westfields requests now would get them into the state's funding cycle.

But Blum was pleased with the school system's piece of the funding pie already.

"It's gonna be a good year for us, no matter how you slice it," he said.

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