$4 million more needed for school to open in '96


Opening Oklahoma Road Middle School in September 1996 hinges on the county's finding an additional $4 million for the project in its budget. Unless construction on the $12.5 million building proceeds without interruption, parent groups say, they will ask for a building moratorium in South Carroll.

By law, the county needs about $10 million set aside for the school project before it can be put out to bid, said Lester Surber, supervisor of school facilities and planning. If the county depended on $3 million in state money that is unavailable until July, it would have to wait until summer to have all of the money in hand.

Grading at the site, south of Liberty Road in Eldersburg, should be complete by December. Construction could begin in early spring unless the county has to wait for state money to put the contract up for bids.

"That would throw the project into a six-month lag," said Kathleen Horneman, president of the South Carroll Coalition, a community group that has lobbied for a new school for nearly two years.

The delay would push the opening to September 1997. It also would mean another year of crowding at Sykesville Middle, the only school in South Carroll for students in sixth through eighth grades. The county classifies the school, which is more than 200 students above its capacity, as "severely inadequate."

"People see the construction starting now, and they don't know it might stop and not start again until July," said Susan Krebs, a coalition member whose daughter will enter middle school next year.

"If we can't come up with a compromise on the new school, we will insist on a moratorium," she said.

The county's budget for fiscal 1995, which began July 1, contains $5.6 million for the new school, nearly half of its estimated final cost. The state is expected to add $3 million for the project in fiscal 1996, which will begin July 1 next year.

The question is how do we get the additional moneys from fiscal '96 to fiscal '95," said Steve Powell, county director of management and budget, who hopes to have an answer early next week.

Mr. Powell said it may be a matter of reallocating funds and using the state money to refund those accounts next year.

"The county should go ahead and fund the project," said Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Carroll Democrat who has worked closely with South Carroll community groups on the school project. "There is a high probability the state will repay the money next year."

Mr. Dixon is urging the county to award the construction bid by February and begin construction in March. He said he left a meeting with the Carroll County commissioners last month thinking everything would happen on that schedule.

County Board of Education officials also would like the school to be under construction by spring. Mr. Surber said that "under ideal circumstances," that schedule could mean a year's difference in when the school could be used.

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