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School board identifies lobbying issues

August 08, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE
  • Donna Brightman
,

Supporting the new library downtown, protecting gaming revenue and keeping an eye on the situation with the state pension were among the issues the school board has informally agreed to send to a local lobbying coalition.

Washington County Board of Education Vice President Justin Hartings suggested at last Tuesday's board meeting that the board discuss issues of importance to Washington County that it wants to forward to the lobbying coalition. There are other avenues, such as educational organizations, to which the board can address specific educational matters, such as Race to the Top issues, for lobbying, he said.

The school board participates in a local lobbying coalition along with local government and business organizations, Art Callaham, director of the Greater Hagerstown Committee, said when contacted by telephone. The coalition uses the firm of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver for lobbying issues, he said.

Hartings said he wanted to protect and ensure the state follows through on its commitment to the downtown library.

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Washington County Free Library is planning a major renovation. The downtown library serves as the school library for the nearby Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

Hartings said he also wanted to protect the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown. Barbara Ingram students use the school for non-art classes, he said.

State funding for the university system's Hagerstown campus has come under attack in the state legislature in recent years.

Hartings said he wants to protect Washington County gaming revenue, which state legislators periodically talk about pursuing.

A portion of those revenues aid local nonprofits, he said. If the state gets that revenue, organizations it helps fund will need to rely on other revenue sources, which puts a tighter squeeze on resources affecting the community and the school system, Hartings said.

School board member Donna Brightman suggested adding the pension and stimulus money to the list.

After the meeting, Brightman said she wanted to make sure the local community was "in the room" when discussions are held about distributing more stimulus money.

Brightman said Wednesday there was talk in Annapolis last year of shifting a portion of the funding for the state pension to the county level.

She said she'd prefer to see the problem solved at the state level rather than shifting it to the counties.

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