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Letters to the Editor

March 08, 2009

Other schools will suffer from BISFA finance moves

To the editor:

When I read in "County to feel pinch of state budget" that state Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, was going to ask for $250,000 in state bond bill money to give to the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts (BISFA), I was taken by surprise.

The next time I read about this request for state taxpayer money it was down to $150,000. It occurred to me that Munson was finally understanding, but still avoiding, the real issue of giving money for this calamity.

Our well-meaning senator wants to use his political capital and years of budgetary clout and experience by persuading (read bartering) his fellow elected representatives that BISFA is good for our county.


He has probably bought the party line of the School Superintendent and the Wayne Ridenour Board of Education (BOE) that this money is essential for BISFA students.

Some past history is required for both voter and taxpayer. About two years ago, $700,000 not completely spent on special education - our one constant inadequately performing No Child Left Behind sub-group - was diverted into a down payment for the arts school.

Specifically, the special education funds were re-classified by the superintendent and approved by the BOE and then ratified by the Washington County Commissioners.

At the same time, in the Capital Improvement Plan, which is included in the yearly Facilities Master Plan, the BOE shuffled the BISFA from priority No. 18 to Priority No. 1.

What group or set of people have the pull to tell the superintendent what they want done? We know that the BOE does what Betty Morgan wants.

So much for the BOE statement, "To determine facilities needs, both for maintenance and for renovation/construction projects, the facilities department utilizes a standard and objective "Facilities Assessment" tool."

The SFA construction financing was then fulfilled by the BOE, guaranteeing a 20-year loan paid from school system daily operating dollars.

These are the dollars that are used to buy books, provide transportation, pay teacher salaries, serve meals, etc. Since the SFA is being paid out of operating funds, it is now understandable that the BOE has hoodwinked Sen. Munson into believing that there is no money for books and supplies for SFA students.

The BOE is correct to tell our dear senator that there is no money. But that is because an estimated $1.5 million is being diverted to SFA from the yearly budget, money that would normally go to special education children and books and other maintenance projects.

For instance, Boonsboro Middle HVAC and the Hancock Middle-Senior High roof could be done this year and then next year the Emma K. Doub boiler/air handler unit plus the Sharpsburg roof plus the Williamsport windows could be done. Just imagine 20 years of doing these things.

This political and financial travesty might have gone unnoticed by some, but not by me. And now you, the voters.

Tom Janus

Tom Janus is a former candidate for the Washington County School Board.

BOE responds to reader's BISFA complaint

To the editor:

I have a couple things to bring to your attention.

1. In Mr. Janus's letter, he talks about $700,000 being diverted from Special Education to make a down payment on the Barbara Ingram school.

Truth: First, there was no down payment, there was a lease payment.

Second, the money for the payment was designated from the General Fund balance.

To explain further, budgets change over the year, and money moves in and out of various line items during that time. To say that the money came from one line item is completely inaccurate.

2. Mr. Janus references the bond bill, and that it will be used for books, supplies, etc.

Truth: Bond Bill dollars will not be used for those items. We're not permitted to use the money in that manner.

3. Mr. Janus references $1.5 million being diverted from the yearly budget.

Truth: We're not sure exactly where this number comes from, or what he's trying to represent. Perhaps he's attempting to address our operating costs. Regardless, if he's trying to represent our annual cost for the building, which seems to be the topic of his letter, we want you to know that our lease payment for the Barbara Ingram school is $633,500.

Clearly, Mr. Janus is not a proponent of the school, and we don't mean to curtail his right to an opinion. Thanks for the chance to address the inaccuracies.

Richard Wright, APR
communications officer
Washington County Public Schools

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