State bars funding for elementary

$8.3 million allotted for county's school construction projects

$101 million statewide

Cranberry Station enrollment figures fail to qualify

May 13, 1999|By Michael Dresser and Melody Simmons | Michael Dresser and Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

As the state handed out $101 million in school construction aid yesterday, it snubbed Cranberry Station Elementary School, saying there was no funding for the new Westminster school because its enrollment figures did not meet state standards.

The lack of funding means Carroll County taxpayers face the prospect of having to foot the entire $9.3 million bill for the school -- complete with $1.3 million in projected cost overruns.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced yesterday that Baltimore and its suburban counties will receive $101 million for school construction in the next year -- a nearly 20 percent increase over this year. The Baltimore region's share comes from a $257.5 million statewide building binge that will fund renovations and additions at dozens of local schools in what the governor is calling a "golden age of school construction."

Overall, Carroll County received $8.3 million, up from this year's $7.2 million. The state increased previously announced funding for a new southeast high school, which will be called Century High School, from $6.3 million to $6.8 million.

Carroll school projects given a green light include $179,000 for a new roof at Eldersburg Elementary School; $592,000 for renovation of a media center at Sykesville Middle School; and $557,000 for six new classrooms at Spring Garden Elementary School.

But the $2.7 million request for partial reimbursement for Cranberry Station, scheduled to open in August, was denied because the figures did not add up, said Yale Stenzler, who heads the state agency that supervises school construction.

Stenzler said Carroll's demographics do not support state funding of a new elementary school in Westminster -- despite an urgency to build the school based on rapid sprawl in the county's largest town.

"At this point in time we cannot support them," said Stenzler, executive director of Maryland's Interagency Committee on School Construction. "Their enrollment projections for adjacent schools do not support the need for the additional capacity."

Vernon F. Smith Jr., Carroll's assistant superintendent of administration, said the announcement came as no surprise.

"We knew the demographics had changed," Smith said. "But the demographics for Cranberry when it was originally requested showed a strong growth trend in the Westminster area. It's been a combination of slowed growth and redistricting that has caused the justification for state [funding] for that project to diminish."

Smith said the county would be eligible for additional funds if there is a surge in growth in the Westminster area and Cranberry's enrollment changes.

County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said she was "very happy" with Carroll's share.

"They have not singled Carroll County out," said Gouge, a Republican, alluding to speculations that Glendening is trying to punish the county for its GOP leanings. "They have thought of the children."

Other local officials from Baltimore and its surrounding counties also expressed satisfaction with the state's largess.

Baltimore received $25 million -- a $7.5 million increase over this year's total -- fulfilling Glendening's commitment to the city legislative delegation.

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger received the full $30 million he requested while two of the clearest winners were Anne Arundel and Howard counties, jurisdictions that replaced Republican county executives with Democrats.

Anne Arundel, historically a laggard in the grab for state school construction money, received a record $13.2 million -- a 42 percent increase. Howard will rake in $16 million -- a 19 percent gain.

Ruppersberger, Howard County Executive James N. Robey and Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens were among those on hand for the Democratic governor's news conference yesterday at Laurence G. Paquin Middle- Senior High School in Baltimore -- recipient of $1.6 million for an addition.

Robey said the results were "better than I hoped."

"I built my budget around $15 million in state school construction money, so this is wonderful. We were treated very well," Robey said.

The county executive noted that one of the projects authorized was the replacement of Ellicott Mills Middle School, which he attended in the mid-1950s. Robey said the school was "uncomfortable then and unbearable now."

Owens said she had hoped for more money -- though she acknowledged that her $15.2 million request was deliberately aggressive. Nevertheless, the $13.2 million allocated by the governor put Owens on a course toward exceeding her stated goal of $50 million in state aid over four years.

"It's Christmas for Anne Arundel," she said yesterday.

Glendening said the generous increases in funding for Anne Arundel and Howard were not politically motivated.

"I don't think this is about Republican and Democrat," the governor said.

State school funding

$6.8 million for new high school in Eldersburg/South Carroll

$179,000 for new roof at Eldersburg Elementary School

$592,000 for media center renovation at Sykesville Middle School

$557,000 for six new classrooms at Spring Garden Elementary School

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