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Washington County commissioner questions $7 million in unspent school funds

September 10, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- A Washington County commissioner questioned Tuesday why the Board of Education has about $7 million in unspent funds.

The money has accumulated over the years and can be spent on any item that the School Board chooses. Commissioner James F. Kercheval said the amount is too high considering the maintenance backlog and other needs present in Washington County Public Schools.

During a joint meeting with the two elected bodies Tuesday, the County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve budget adjustments that included transferring an additional $2 million to the school system's undesignated surplus funds. The total for the fiscal year is $2.67 million, and Chief Financial Officer Chris South said the school system now has an undesignated fund balance of about $7 million.

South said that is slightly higher than it has been in the past.

"We may have been a little too conservative this year," Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

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School Board member Bernadette M. Wagner said that when officials when preparing the school system's budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year, they anticipated higher gasoline prices, which would have affected transportation, heating and other costs.

Kercheval said that years ago, the fund balance was only about $300,000. He said the county also has a reserve fund that covers Washington County Public Schools.

School officials said that with an anticipated dip in state funding for new school construction projects, having a fund balance is a good thing.

Kercheval said he would like some of the surplus funds to be spent on school maintenance and construction.

"I have no desire to pull this money from the (Board of Education)," he said.

The commissioners also heard Tuesday about a list of upcoming capital projects that school officials hope to begin.

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