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Hagerstown Community College asks county for $8.7 million

$1.9 million in additional funding for Arts and Science Complex sought

$1.9 million in additional funding for Arts and Science Complex sought

April 02, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday met for lunch at Hagerstown Community College to hear the school's budget request for the coming fiscal year.

Under the request, the county's portion of HCC's budget would rise to $8.7 million, an increase of $754,545, or 9.5 percent, over last fiscal year.

In addition, the college is asking for a $1.9 million increase in capital funding from the county during fiscal year 2009 for the college's most immediate capital project, a $31.2 million Arts and Sciences Complex.

That project will be funded through the county's six-year capital improvement plan, which pays for construction projects like roads and schools.

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The commissioners expressed concern about the proposed price tag of the Arts and Sciences Complex, which has risen more than $7.2 million in the last year after the college changed its plans for the project.

"Things change, and I understand that," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said. "But we can't absorb increased costs like that without changing projects or moving them out in the schedule."

The complex is scheduled to be funded from fiscal years 2009 to 2012.

Anna Barker, HCC's vice president of administration and finance, said the project was changed after a consultant study showed that plans to revamp an existing science building would not provide enough space for the complex.

Instead, the college wants to build a new science building and turn the existing one into a classroom building.

The college asked for 14 projects totaling $64.8 million to be included on the county's six-year capital improvement plan.

The county has pushed half of those projects off the six-year schedule into fiscal years 2015 and beyond, bringing the college's six-year capital budget down to $42.3 million.

The Arts and Sciences Complex is the only project that would be funded in fiscal year 2009.

The county pays about 30 percent of the college's annual operating budget, with other funds coming from tuition and fees and state aid.

Overall, HCC's budget would rise more than $2 million, to $28.9 million, in fiscal year 2009, which starts in July.

The college's operating budget increase is needed to pay for new and expanded programs, enrollment growth, utility costs and employee salaries and benefits, HCC President Guy Altieri said.

Credit enrollment at the college grew 28 percent from 2002 to 2007. Enrollment in career programs grew by 44 percent.

Altieri noted that the school's Commercial Vehicle Transportation program has almost tripled in the last three years.

In addition, the college recently finished its biotechnology wet labs complex and opened its extension center at the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base, which is being redeveloped into a residential, commercial and retail complex.

Altieri said the college is expecting about 120 students at the extension site in the fall.

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