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Washington Co. asks for $2.4 million more for school buildings

January 25, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton M. Wilcox makes an appeal for school construction money on Wednesday to the Maryland Board of Public Works, which is made up of, from left (in blue), Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, Gov. Martin O'Malley and Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot.
By Andrew Schotz, Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS — As part of an annual statewide appeal process, Washington County Wednesday asked for $2.4 million more in school construction money, on top of $7 million already allocated in the state’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget.

Clayton M. Wilcox, superintendent of Washington County Public Schools, made the presentation to the three-member state Board of Public Works.

The additional $2.4 million includes $798,000 toward the construction of a new Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed fiscal 2013 capital budget already has $3.6 million for a new Bester, replacing the current one, which will be torn down.

Besides the additional Bester money, Washington County’s appeal included:

  • $244,000 for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.
  • $495,000 to replace windows and doors at Hancock Middle-Senior High School.
  • $597,000 to upgrade the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and the lighting system at Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education.
  • $277,000 to upgrade the electrical system at E. Russell Hicks Middle School and for an emergency generator.

The state’s Interagency Committee on School Construction divides and distributes school construction money in a multistep process, starting with three quarters of it.

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Then, school systems across the state make further appeals to the Board of Public Works for a share of the remainder, a lengthy session long known as the “Beg-a-thon,” although O’Malley has renamed it the “Hope-a-thon.”

The Board of Public Works is made up of the governor, the comptroller and the treasurer.

School systems are scheduled to hear in a few months how successful their appeals were.

In O’Malley’s proposed fiscal 2013 capital budget, which he released last week, the Washington County school projects included:

  • $3.6 million for Bester Elementary School.
  • $2.8 million for Ruth Ann Monroe Primary School.
  • $390,000 for Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.
  • $247,000 for Pleasant Valley Elementary School.

Washington County submitted a five-page written appeal that said Bester Elementary School “is in dire need of replacement. However, the project has been delayed year after year due to the need for additional seat capacity during a period of unprecedented student growth in Washington County.”

Wilcox summarized the appeal to the Board of Public Works in his first time since taking over last year for the previous Washington County superintendent, Elizabeth M. Morgan.

Wilcox also addressed a question Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot asked representatives from almost every school system that appealed on Wednesday — whether the district has a mandatory financial literacy program.

Wilcox said Washington County embeds financial literacy into a broader curriculum and has a standalone course for juniors and seniors.

Hearing that Washington County’s high school course is elective, Franchot, who is pushing for mandatory financial lessons for high school students, said that’s not enough.

“The key is the kids that don’t sign up” and don’t think credit-card debt is a big problem, he said.

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