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County looks at funding alternatives for arts school

May 23, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County officials say there is a cheaper way to fund the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts than the one proposed by the Board of Education.

Debra S. Murray, office of budget and finance director, said that financing the school through a bank and not the Maryland Economic Development Corp., as the school board has proposed, would cost less. She said the school board asked the commissioners to investigate alternatives.

The school board approved a partnership with the Maryland Economic Development Corp. to fund the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in March, in part financing the $9 million project with bonds that the school system would pay back at an interest rate of about 5.5 percent.

But a state tax credit and state grant money would bring the amount needed to $7 million.

"Using a bank would be a cost savings over anything that had been proposed," Murray said.

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Murray said the interest rate would be fixed over a 20-year period.

The school for the arts in downtown Hagerstown would be financed through low-interest bonds and tax credits through the MEDCO plan. Murray said she studied an alternative through SunTrust bank, and officials said they hoped they still would be eligible through the tax credits.

The Board of Education does not need permission from the County Commissioners to fund the project through MEDCO, but has said they are seeking the commissioners' "blessing."

County Commissioners will meet with the Board of Education Tuesday to discuss the funding options again.

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