School board creates list of construction priorities

Fixing middle schools, new elementary are focus

September 21, 2006|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,SUN REPORTER

Building an elementary school in White Marsh and renovating several middle schools top the Baltimore County system's construction priorities in the coming fiscal year, according to a preliminary budget discussed at a school board work session last night.

Board members discussed allocating money for construction and renovation as well as replacing roofs, windows and boilers at several county schools.

On Oct. 3, the board will decide on a final version of the construction budget, which will be submitted to the state agency that oversees funding for school projects.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Sept. 21 editions of The Sun incorrectly stated the amount of the proposed capital budget for Baltimore County public schools. The proposed capital budget for the fiscal year beginning July 2007 is $243.2 million. THE SUN REGRETS THE ERROR

The state usually funds a portion of the money requested, said the county schools' chief financial officer, Barbara Burnopp.

"A lot of these things we've been asking for for several years because we get funded for so little of what we ask for," Burnopp said.

The proposed $358.7 budget for the fiscal year beginning in July seeks $95 million from the state and $148 million from the county. The remaining expenses would be covered by money the county set aside last year.

Last year, the school system asked the state for approximately $100 million but received about $35 million, Burnopp.

If the state were to give a similar amount this year, the school system would have the money to cover projects at six schools, based on a prioritized list of requests.

These projects include constructing an elementary school in White Marsh, replacing the fire alarm system at Milford Mill Academy and renovating four middle schools -- Deep Creek, Perry Hall, Old Court and Cockeysville.

The school system has already begun renovation on several middle schools using loans from the county. The proposed budget will ask the state for money to pay back themoney.

For several years, the system has been working on renovating and improving schools that were ignored in the past, said board president Donald L. Arnold.

Most older elementary schools have been renovated, Arnold said, so the school system is now focusing on middle schools. After they are improved, the system will turn its attention to high schools.

The largest budget request -- $69 million -- is for future high school renovations.

The school system will request that money from the county in January. They system also will look to the county to finance replacing roofs and windows at numerous elementaries, said Michael G. Sines, director of physical facilities.

These were not replaced as part of earlier renovation projects because the county did not have enough money, he said.

"Most of the schools in Baltimore County are of such an age that roof replacements are an absolute necessity," said board member Joy Shillman, who chairs its construction committee.

Although the public was not invited to speak at the work session, several regional meetings were held earlier in the year at which county residents discussed the needs of schools in their areas.

Largest projects

The top five largest construction requests considered by the Baltimore County School Board:

Future renovations to high schools: $69 million

Construction of an elementary school at the Vincent Farms site in White Marsh: $10.9 million

Renovation of Perry Hall Middle: $8.1 million

Renovation, new roof and windows at Cockeysville Middle: $8 million

Renovation of General John Stricker Middle: $7.6 million

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