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County school board considers $68 million budget

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Baltimore County school board members are considering a $68 million capital budget for the coming fiscal year that includes the first new high school in more than two decades.

Also proposed are an addition to a Towson-area elementary school and a new wing for crowded Woodlawn High, a project that was promised funds before plans existed.

The proposal, presented to the board last night, is half of the $137 million request approved by members last year, a fact school officials attributed to the focus during the past two fiscal years on top-to-bottom renovations at the district's elementary schools, and an expected increase in construction costs and limited county funds.

A public hearing on the proposed capital budget has been set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. The board could approve the budget plan as early as Oct. 10 at its meeting, said schools spokesman Charles A. Herndon.

The proposal asks for about $49.6 million in county money and $18.5 million from the state, and includes one new school, two significant additions, four roof replacements, renovations at three schools and other projects.

The largest piece of the budget, or just under $40 million, is for construction of the 1,500-student New Town High School in the fast-growing Owings Mills New Town area. The school is slated to begin construction early next year and to be finished in time for the start of the 2003-2004 school year, Herndon said.

Also included in the budget is $451,000 in state money and $492,250 in county money for a 6,600-square-foot addition, including a cafeteria, at Stoneleigh Elementary School. The project has long been planned but was left out when the state approved funding for school construction this spring. About $1.6 million has already been set aside for the project.

At Woodlawn High School, $13.6 million would pay for a 600-student addition designed to relieve crowding at a school that is already about 200 students over capacity and is projected to be 500 students over by 2002.

The project was put together after County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, responding to lobbying pressure from the community and with surplus county money available, announced a plan to fund an addition for the school. The addition wasn't in the works until Ruppersberger's announcement, but school officials said they couldn't turn down such an offer.

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