Schools get extra money

April 21, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

Persistence paid off for Carroll County school officials who yesterday received $2.87 million more than previously anticipated in state money for next year to build classroom space for a growing bulge of students.

It still isn't as much as they asked for but it will help, school and county officials say.

"Let me interrupt the meeting with some really good news," Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said yesterday after he was called out of the monthly school board meeting in Westminster to take a call from Del. Richard N. Dixon and returned with the announcement.

Mr. Dixon, a Democrat who represents Carroll, had called to let Mr. Shilling know the result of the morning Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis, and the extra school money it brought. "I'm extremely happy with that," Mr. Dixon said later.

Another coup was approval from the state to start planning Oklahoma Road Middle School. Even though the approval comes with no money this year, it means the school will be on the list of projects that will likely get some money for construction in the next year.

The state Board of Public Works yesterday approved $106 million for public school construction in the 1994-1995 capital budget, including $25 million added last winter by the General Assembly.

The board, consisting of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein and Treasurer Lucille Maurer, approved the recommendations of Yale Stenzler, director of the state Interagency Committee for Public School Construction.

Of the $106 million, $4.52 million is to go to Carroll County schools. The total breaks down to slightly more than $2.5 million to reimburse Carroll County for part of the cost of Piney Ridge Elementary School, which opened in 1991, and just under $2 million for renovating and expanding Taneytown Elementary School.

For Oklahoma Road, the planning approval was for a school to hold 400 students. Carroll school officials plan to build a school for 800 students, said Vernon Smith, director of school support services, because they believe growth in the area will fill it. So, while the state normally pays half of the cost of building projects, it could pay only a quarter of Oklahoma Road's projected $12 million cost.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he would have to talk with the budget director, Steven Powell, about whether the county can afford to pay such a high portion of Oklahoma Road. The $2.5 million reimbursement for Piney Ridge will help offset the cost of Oklahoma Road, he said.

The Piney Ridge money comes from a total $18 million the state allocated for "pay-as-you-go" money to counties that went ahead and built schools before being assured of state money for them.

When much of their request from last summer was denied in the fall by the state Interagency Committee for Public School Construction, school board members and administrators lobbied long and hard for more money to keep up with rapid growth in enrollment. They enlisted legislators, especially Mr. Dixon and Sen. Charles H. Smelser, a Democrat representing Carroll, Frederick and Howard counties.

Last fall, the interagency committee had recommended only $1.6 million for Taneytown, although Carroll had asked for $2.6 million. Mr. Stenzler said the enrollment projections at the time did not warrant the 500-student school Carroll officials wanted. However, he said yesterday, that new enrollment figures do support another 85 students, and that's reflected in the additional $325,000 approved yesterday.

Carroll school officials, however, say that development planned for Taneytown indicates that it will need to hold about 620 students in coming years, and they are asking the county commissioners to pick up the cost of that extra capacity.

The state provided no money or recognition for Elmer Wolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge, because that project is for renovation instead of to ease crowding, and the state priority is crowding.

But Mr. Shilling said he was optimistic that Union Bridge will get to update its school.

"I still believe planning approval for Elmer Wolfe Elementary is a very real possibility," Mr. Shilling said. "My recommendation is that the board ask for the $200,000 in planning money from the commissioners this year."

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