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Agency denies funding for Andrews Heights Elementary renovations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Kanawha County's request for state funding to help finance renovations at Andrews Heights Elementary School has been denied for a third time.

The School Building Authority, the state agency charged with divvying funds for school construction projects, allocated a little more than $50 million to 11 projects Monday. But the authority voted against giving Kanawha County the $1.9 million it sought to help fund the $2.6 million project at Andrews Heights.

After the meeting, Superintendent Ron Deurring said the county has no plans to move forward with the renovations without help from the state.   

Right now, the school in the community of Tornado outside St. Albans uses four portable classrooms to accommodate its 319 students. The proposed plan would have added classrooms and expanded the kitchen.

Scott Raines, director of architectural services for the authority, acknowledged that Andrews Heights does need renovations even as he recommended the project not be a top priority for the board.  

"I can honestly say I've been to this building and I think this is the smallest kitchen space I've ever seen," he said. Yet he didn't recommend the board sacrifice other projects if funds weren't available.

"While all the projects were good projects, they would all have a positive effect on students," Raines said. "It's unfortunate that we won't be able to fund them all."

Kanawha County's request was one of nine denied in this year's round of funding for major projects.

Of the projects that did receive funding, the largest was in Pendleton County, which was granted $9.8 million for a new elementary school. Harrison County's request also was fully funded at $8.2 million, which will help build a new middle school.

Boone, Cabell, Wood, Webster, Ritchie, Lewis and Mason counties also received funding Monday.

Kanawha County has taken flak from the authority in the past for its handling of finances. In September, board member Tom Lange said it was irresponsible of the county to cap its excess levy - the extra property tax that can garner millions of dollars in funding for school systems.

The school board voted last year to put a flat cap on the amount of money it could take from voters over the next five years in the name of tax relief for the public. That decision, along with other factors, is ushering the school system toward an impending deficit and forcing it to reevaluate the cap.

The school board voted last week to consider taking another tax proposal to voters. They'll consider that measure in the coming weeks before it comes to a vote.

And Deurring said Monday that the authority has been very generous in its consideration of Kanawha County Schools projects. The county is currently at work on several projects that received state funding, including the $22 million Edgewood Elementary School, which received a little less than $10 million from the authority.  

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.


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