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School for arts may get state funding for lease if money is available

Tom Janus asks board to be transparent about what it will do with $620,000 rebate for rent

March 03, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

The state of Maryland may once again provide funding for the Washington County school system's annual lease payment for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in Hagerstown, Chief Financial Officer Chris South said this week.

County public school officials were notified the funding was being recommended, if the state has the money, South said.

The issue came up Tuesday after a Hagerstown-area resident, Tom Janus, returned to speak to the school board regarding a request he made two weeks ago for the board to ask the state to use money meant for Ingram's lease for two other projects instead.

Those projects are a new roof at Pleasant Valley Elementary for $396,000 and windows and doors at Northern Middle School for $270,000.

The state has not yet approved funding for those projects, but the school system is still going through the appeals process and expects an update in May, school system spokesman Richard Wright said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Janus asked the board to be transparent about what it will do with the $620,000 rebate for Ingram's rent.

Janus left the meeting before school board member Justin Hartings addressed the matter during budget discussions.

Hartings and South said that the school system included money for the lease payment in the proposed budget to hold the place of state money that is not yet secured.

For this fiscal year, and in the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, $634,704 is budgeted for the lease.

When the state provided $620,000 toward the lease during this fiscal year, that freed up $620,000 budgeted for the lease to be spent on other projects.

Of that $620,000, South said about $150,000 is paying for the feasibility study of whether to renovate or replace Bester Elementary School. The school board voted unanimously to award the contract for that study and conceptual drawings for $156,970 to Grimm & Parker Architects in Calverton, Md., last October.

The remainder is going toward deferred maintenance projects, South said.

The Ingram school, in downtown Hagerstown, is owned by Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership, South said. The school system is making lease payments so it will own the school in 20 years.

It cost $10 million to renovate the building into a school, South said. The lease payments pay for $8 million of those renovations, a portion of which is financed through tax-free bonds, he said.

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