Kristin Harty Barkley Cumberland Times-News
CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Board of Education won’t find out until this spring whether it will receive funding to begin designing a new Allegany High School.
But officials, who pitched the project to Gov. Martin O’Malley and other members of the state’s Board of Public Works on Wednesday, believe they’re making a good case.
“I feel like it went pretty well. They were very interested,” said Superintendent David Cox, who showed state officials poster-size photos of conditions at the 87-year-old building, including its antiquated boiler room and dilapidated auditorium.
“We just wanted to show the age of the building and to support what the architects have told us about it being beyond its useful life.”
Cox, who traveled to Annapolis on Wednesday with all five members of the local Board of Education, as well as several county officials, had about 10 minutes to tell state officials about the Allegany High School project.
The Board of Public Works — made up of O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp — heard requests Wednesday for building projects from school systems across the state.
The typically long day of presentations has become known as the “beg-a-thon” because so many school officials plead for funds.
O’Malley announced earlier this month that he plans to ask the Maryland General Assembly to approve more than $370 million in school construction funding in the fiscal year 2013 budget — the second-highest single-year funding level in state history.
Last year, lawmakers approved $250 million for school construction. The General Assembly’s annual 90-day session started Jan. 11.
In December, local school officials pitched the AHS project to the state’s Interagency Committee on School Funding, describing how the BOE, Cumberland City Council and Western Maryland Health System signed off on a land swap deal to allow a new Allegany High School to be built on the site of the former Braddock campus of the hospital.
The cooperative effort has impressed state officials, Cox said.
“I feel positive about it,” said Cox, who planned to stay overnight in Annapolis to attend today’s PACE reception with local legislators. “I don’t take anything for granted though. I think we’ve done about everything we can.”
Members of the Western Maryland Delegation, who are supporting the Allegany High School project, announced Wednesday that they are also taking steps to assure that school systems in rural counties aren’t crippled by state funding cuts this year.
Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel said they’re pursuing statewide legislation that would cap funding losses for Allegany and Garrett county school systems, which suffered the biggest state cuts last year.
O’Malley’s FY 2013 budget includes a 5.5 percent cut in funding for Allegany County and an 11.8 percent cut for Garrett County, which is considering closing up to three elementary schools to make ends meet.
“The citizens from these areas have made it clear that these schools are at the heart of the community and closing them would cause irreparable harm for the students and their families,” Beitzel said of Friendsville, Kitzmiller and Dennett Road elementary schools.
Last year, Edwards and Beitzel led legislative efforts to cap a jurisdiction’s funding losses due to the so-called “wealth formula.” But that funding was only good for one year.
“The state really needs to look at how the wealth formula is computed,” Edwards said. “This bill would be a benefit to Garrett and Allegany counties and potentially others if we can get it passed.”
Cox said that school officials appreciate the legislators’ efforts to minimize state funding cuts, which was on the Board of Education’s list of “legislative priorities” for 2012.
Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at firstname.lastname@example.org
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