State To Decide Whether To Share Costs Of Western High School

January 26, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

County school officials will learn by mid-March whether the state government will share construction costs for the $26 million western high school building in 1992-1993.

School officials, representativesof the County Council and members of the local General Assembly delegation took their case to the state Board of Public Works last week, appealing the state Interagency Committee for School Construction's deferral of the project.

They are seeking planning recognition, a prerequisite for state cost-sharing, and $8.7 million in state aid.

The Board of Public Works -- the governor, state comptroller and state treasurer -- is expected to issue decisions in 45 days on projects appealed Wednesday by Howard and 11 other school systems.

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said he is confident the western high school will eventually win state approval. But if the state does not come through for the 1992-1993 school year, the county will finance the project with bond sales and then seek reimbursement from the state.

"We have to build it anyway, and we have to build it on the timetable we're working on," Hickey said. The school is scheduled to open in 1994 at Route 108 and Trotter Road in Columbia's 10th village, River Hill.

"Think of the western high school as our beach-replenishment project," school board Vice Chairman Dana F. Hanna told the public works board, citing "a tide of students" now entering middle school and soon to wash over the county's eight high schools.

The board learned earlier in the session that a $44 million beach-reconstruction project saved Ocean City an estimated $93 million in property damage during a Jan. 4 storm.

Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein asked why Howard County, which has anexcellent bond rating, doesn't pay for the school.

County CouncilPresident Paul R. Farragut, D-4, replied that Howard County's ratio of debt to its assessable base is already high in comparison with other counties'. The county ratio is 3.52 percent, second only to Baltimore as of last year, reported county Budget Administrator Raymond S. Wacks.

The state is prepared to spend $66.5 million to share school construction and renovation costs in 1992-1993, but faced $197 million worth of requests at the start of the process last fall.

The IAC allocated $42 million, including $4.9 million for Howard County's western middle and northeastern elementary schools. IAC also gave planning recognition to the northern elementary school scheduled to openin 1994.

The board has $24.5 million to divide among $55 million in requests.

The county also is appealing for $2.5 million for construction of the northern elementary school and $2.1 million in reimbursement for four completed renovations.

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