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Funding mechanism changed for arts school

June 06, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Plans to build a new Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in Hagerstown are moving forward, but without funding through the Maryland Economic Development Corp.

The Washington County Board of Education voted Tuesday to rescind a vote taken in March to fund the arts school through that agency. That vote was unanimous, with members William H. Staley and Bernadette M. Wagner absent.

The board voted unanimously to fund the school through a long-term lease that could include borrowing an estimated $11.5 million. That option was said to be most cost-effective during a meeting with Washington County Commissioners last week.

Officials have said the lease could be for 20 years or more.

At the time, most County Commissioners said they supported that option assuming that no money for the project came from Washington County taxpayers. The estimated cost of the school is now $11.5 million, which includes furnishings and some contingency money. The school also would receive more than $1 million in tax credits from the state if the project is completed by January 2009.

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"We came up with something that was a little better," said Board Member Ruth Anne Callaham. "It's not that we're abandoning the concept or anything. We're working to make things happen."

The school system's chief financial officer, Chris South, said the newly adopted funding plan would save about 1 percent to 1.25 percent from the original MEDCO proposal.

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said officials plan to solicit donations for the school in exchange for naming rights to classrooms and other areas in the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

"We now intend to move forward very quickly," she said.

Board members have said they hope to offset some of the costs of the new school through fundraising.

Board President Roxanne R. Ober said the vote Tuesday authorized school system staff and South to present packages to banks to determine the best possible rate for the lease.

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