School building schedule is revised New plan moves up some construction, delays other projects

October 29, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

County and school officials have agreed to a revised schedule of building new schools and expanding others in a plan that will cost $101 million by 2003 -- a plan that also moves up projects such as a new high school in Westminster and a new middle school in Hampstead.

But the schedule delays a new middle school in Westminster for two years, until 2002, and delays renovation of North Carroll Middle School until 2003.

School board President C. Scott Stone was taken aback when Steven D. Powell, the county's director of management and budget, presented the plan, which the County Commissioners had approved earlier this month. But Stone said his dismay was because the board had no clue it was coming until yesterday, when the commissioners and school board met for a quarterly discussion.

"The substance of this is not as disappointing as the Board of Commissioners' failure to communicate it to the Board of Education," Stone said. "In hindsight, I was probably too harsh.

"I don't want to put a damper on what has otherwise been a very productive meeting," Stone said.

For example, the commissioners and school board discussed harmoniously the fiscal challenge that has often been a source of tension between them: how to build all the schools needed and still keep up with increased operating costs resulting from new schools and a growing enrollment.

"This is good news on the operating side," Stone said. Delaying some of the projects will mean the schools have an easier time making the debt payments. The county has asked the school administration to come up with a way to save on operating expenses, so that some operating money can be used to pay back loans for new schools.

Assistant Superintendent William Hyde also gave the county a plan for examining several areas of the budget and operations to find ways to save money.

Hyde said he also is handing out to staff a list of accomplishments the school system is proud of, to provide perspective.

"We're saying put this in your right hand, and this in your left hand," Hyde said. "We want to save money, but think about the impact on the outcomes we're achieving."

Under the new building schedule, the county will make available money in the following years for these schools:

$14.1 million for a new middle school in Hampstead in 1999.

$28 million for a new high school in southeastern Carroll County in 2000.

$1 million for an addition to Spring Garden Elementary in 2000.

$30 million for a new high school in Westminster that will include a regional special education program in 2001, one year earlier than originally planned.

$13.8 million for a new middle school in Westminster in 2002.

And in 2003, $10 million to renovate North Carroll Middle, $3.5 million to build a fine arts addition to South Carroll High School and $1 million to expand the media center at Sykesville Middle School.

The years given are when the money is available, with the schools generally opening one year later. In most cases, the county will rely on the state to pay about half the cost of the new schools, but the money will sometimes come a year or two later.

State reimbursement for schools is based on a complicated formula involving enrollment projections. In the case of a new high school in Westminster, local officials want to build it by 2002, even though enrollment won't be high enough to qualify for state reimbursement until 2003, school planners estimate.

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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