Fayette school plan may face resistance from School Building Authority

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Fayette school plan may face resistance from School Building Authority
By Jeff Jenkins, Metronews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Fayette County won’t get all of the money it’s seeking from the state School Building in the upcoming funding cycle and there’s question if it will get any at all.

The SBA will have $52 million to allocate in December. Projects from across the state are due Oct. 1. SBA Executive Director David Sneed expects to have up to 40 projects totaling nearly $200 million. Fayette County has a school construction plan exceeding $50 million with little or no local funds to go with it. The county hasn’t passed a school bond issue since the 1970s.

The best case scenario for Fayette County would appear to be a multi-year funding plan, Sneed said.

“That would be the only scenario the authority would consider,” Sneed told MetroNews Wednesday. “I don’t think they (SBA members) are going to want to sacrifice a lot these other counties—-we have one county that’s bringing $20 million cash.”

The SBA hasn’t ignored Fayette County, according to Sneed.

“We’ve actually supported almost $79 million for Fayette County. However, over the years with failed bonds and the return of several grants that we’ve provided for them they’ve returned to us $52 million that they could have used for facilities over the last 25 years,” he said.

The SBA has long favored projects in counties where there is local funding to go with the request. Most of the time that’s been in the form of bond issues.

Fayette County’s problems are well-documented. Another school bond issue failed earlier this year as school buildings continue to crumble. New Superintendent Terry George introduced a plan last month that calls for the building a consolidated high school and a new elementary school. Some existing high schools would be used as middle schools. The state School Board, which seized control of the Fayette system a few years ago, has approved the plan. Funding is the problem.

Sneed has already heard from SBA members who are concerned about allocating a significant about of money to a county that hasn’t passed a bond issue.

“It’s probably not the best solution for us to award counties for failing a bond given the magnitude of the problem around the state,” he said. “There are a lot of counties that are doing a lot of creative things. They’re making sacrifices to bring money to improve their own facilities and using us as a partner.”

Fayette Superintendent Terry George was hopeful for some sort of funding from the SBA when he announced the facilities plan last month.

“I can’t tell you how the School Building Authority will vote on that but I think it’s going to be based upon our presentation and how much we can demonstrate the need here in Fayette County,” George said.