CHARLESTON, W.VA. — Monday is the day the state School Building Authority will hand out $45 million in funding to build new facilities and improve others. The authority meets at Capital High School to go over requests from 21 counties totaling $170 million.

“There’s always much more requests than money available. It’s not uncommon. There’s well over $2 billion in need across the state of West Virginia,” according to SBA Executive Director Mark Manchin.

Jennifer Smith/MetroNews

West Virginia School Building Authority, led by executive director Mark Manchin (far left), will decide Monday which school construction projects to fund.

He expects the SBA to meet for at least a couple of hours to narrow down the projects and then divvy up the funding to those projects that are most worthy. Manchin explained that’s not easy.

“I know ($45-million) sounds like a lot of money but when a new high schools costs in excess of $40-million, a new elementary school in excess of $15-million and a new middle school in excess of $20 million, it doesn’t take long to go through these funds,” said Manchin.

The school systems gave their presentations to the SBA last month. Some counties were asking for just a little, a few hundred thousand, to add a classroom or build a new secure entry. Other counties need major funding into the millions of dollars to help build brand new schools.

Manchin said the SBA is focused on a couple key criteria for funding.

“The health and safety of children is the highest criteria. Second is local participation,” he explained.

The SBA tends to help those counties who help themselves by offering up local funds to go along with the SBA money to complete a project.

This time around Manchin said one county stands out when it comes to the need for funding.

“The authority feels very strongly about the Wayne County bond. So we’ll be giving a high priority to the Wayne County bond that will be running in May and building two new schools, one at Crum and one at Ceredo Kenova.”

Wayne County voters failed to pass a bond the last two times its been on the ballot. They lost SBA funding because of that. Manchin said at this point, Wayne is in desperate need of the two new schools to provide a safe and friendly learning environment.

This will be Manchin’s last SBA funding cycle. He will become Harrison County’s new Superintendent of Schools in June. His replacement at the SBA has not been selected.

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  • mook

    If all counties paid the same, then they could maybe go to the nearest school. And not wonder what school is going to pay his education bill. Because that is the beef about crossing county lines. About who gets billed what.

  • Another Perspective

    Best part of this article is that it's the last SBA meeting for Manchin!
    Now, if the other Manchin on the State School Board would have the good grace to leave.
    Can't these people stop feeding at the public trough for decades and get a real job?

  • An opportunity to start anew

    Taxpayers should not be relied upon via levy's or school bonds to build schools. That is total BS. We are already providing personal property taxes to fund education within our county. Moreover, the tax rate for each county should be the same since a small portion of each counties taxes are sent to Charleston to divided amongst other counties needs. So some counties assess at the maximum rate while others do not. At least that is what I was told when I paid my taxes last time. The state should be funding the SBA, not levy's and school bonds.

  • I'm honest at least

    The whole system is B.S. We either agree to pay more taxes or we are denied funding from taxes already paid. The state puts no thought into the fact that the dynamics of an areas population base is a huge factor.

  • Aaron

    I found this interesting.

  • Herb

    It's always nice to have another reason for R's and D's to point fingers and yell at each other, but the man said right up front that local participation was one of the main determining factors. Look at the SBA money Morgan County had to return last year when 89% of the voters stayed home and let their levy fail. I love a conspiracy theory more than most people, but sometimes there just isn't one there. The bottom line is that voters who say "Let the state take care of that, I'm not paying for it" shouldn't be surprised when they get nuttin' for Christmas.

  • Mike Blickenstaff

    Please allow me to break the suspense.... Marion county will not be on the list of counties receiving funds. Once again, Marion county BOE failed to apply for anything. Mannington Middle will enter it's 113th year, 20 years plus without major remodeling. Maybe next year.
    Well maybe not, since one of our own, Dr. Manchin will not be there.

  • Aaron

    "...when a new high schools costs in excess of $40-million, a new elementary school in excess of $15-million and a new middle school in excess of $20 million..."

    So why does it take so much and so long to build those buildings? I live in Putnam County and we voted on that levy in 2011 to build 3 new schools and add on to two others. Of the schools, 2 are completed and only 1 did not run into either delays or significant cost overruns.

    Meanwhile, Cabella's took 8 months from beginning of moving dirt to final construction. The CAMC Cancer Center will take about a year to complete. Complete parking structures and buildings have been constructed for private companies in months, all on time and below budget.

    So why is it that publicly funded projects take so long but similar size and scope privately funded projects come in on time? This would make an interesting article.

    • mntnman

      In Mercer County, we've built two new schools in the past four years -- both UNDER budget. Why? My opinion is that we build what we can afford -- we watch the dollars as the building is built, and we avoid building fancy for fancies sake -- I understand a recent school built a work out center for its staff -- nice if its your money, not so much if its taxpayers dollars. Schools can be built within budget -- it requires discipline, building what is needed over what is wanted and a willingness to drop from construction what is unnecessary and nice for what is important. The benefit of being under-budget -- you can go back in and add things you'd like to have.

      • ViennaGuy

        Well stated! And congratulations to Mercer County for coming in under budget - THAT is a wise use of taxpayer money.

    • ViennaGuy

      Aaron, I may be able to speak to some of your concerns about cost.

      10 years ago, the voters here in Wood County approved a bond levy to do $50 million in work to the county's three high schools. Part of the $50 million came from the SBA. The project wound up coming in 25% over budget - nearly $63 million was spent on what should have been a $50 million project, and the work was completed late. The news media gave extensive coverage to the cost overruns, and I learned some things as a result.

      West Virginia state law requires that prevailing wage be paid on any project which uses state funds. For those who don't know, prevailing wage is the highest possible wage paid in a given area for a given occupation. Even if plumbers, electricians, etc. were available to work for less than prevailing wage, governmental entities are required by law to pay prevailing wage. If you or I was having work done to our homes, would we pay the highest possible labor rate? Of course not! But state law requires exactly that, which drives the cost up. The prevailing wage law drives up the cost of all state-funded(and federally-funded) projects.

      Another thing we learned was that contractors were required by law to pay B&O taxes on the construction supplies, even though the work was being done for a non-profit entity(the school board). It finally got to the point where the board started buying the supplies itself to reduce the cost of B&O taxes, but it was too little, too late.

      We also learned that plans were being changed while the construction was going on, which drives up the cost.

      There were other "reasons" given by the board(which in my mind didn't hold much water), but in the end, nobody was held accountable for the overruns. The school board shrugged off the 25% overrun as "Oh well, these things happen." Hey, it's only tax money, right?

  • ViennaGuy

    I would like to see the SBA move back toward one of its original tenents - making county school boards consolidate schools as a condition of obtaining SBA money.

    • Aaron

      The problem is consolidation has not shown to lower the cost to the citizens.

      • ViennaGuy

        Cost savings will not be immediately realized, no question. But I'd think that savings would accrue over a period of years simply because there are fewer buildings to maintain. I'd also think that utility costs would be reduced over the long term. Has it been shown that these cost savings do not accrue over time?

        • a concerned educator

          From what I understand, one of the major costs that many people don't consider when schools are consolidated are the costs of transportation. For example, from what I have read, there are students in Preston County who have to ride a bus 105 minutes each way to Preston High. This is a significant distance and a significant cost. I believe that the state (WVBOE) covers the cost of transportation. However, someone is still paying the money. In addition, this amount of time in commuting cannot be good for students.

          There is a formula that is used to determine the most appropriate and successful size for schools. I also believe that this formula focuses on student satisfaction levels. I believe that for high schools, the population size suggested for this formula is supposed to be no more than 800 students. How many consolidated schools do we have in WV that have far more students than that. Finally, as schools get larger, students lose their individuality. Teachers in a school with 1600 students cannot know and identify with their students in the same way that teachers in a school with 500-800 students do. I am NOT meaning that teachers in a larger school do not care or that they do not do a good job, but there is something to be said for the "family" atmosphere of a small school.

          • ViennaGuy

            Certainly there are instances where consolidation is not in the best interest of the students, such as the 105-minute bus ride in Preston County. That's too much. I rode the bus as a kid, and I know that I wouldn't want to spend over three hours a day on a bus.

            I can immediately think of two examples here in Wood County where elementary schools could be and should be consolidated(in one case, there are three elementary schools within 1/4 mile of each other as the crow flies, so the transportation question is not an issue), but the school board simply refuses to to touch it. Consolidation is the third rail of school board politics in Wood County.

        • Aaron

          I don't have access to figures but it is my understanding in discussions that counties many counties do not experience the savings expected, especially not when the money spent on new school construction is taken into account.

          I do know the loss of schools has devastated many small towns and has left Class A competition mostly non-existent.

          When I get to a computer, I will do some research.

  • Gary Karstens

    It may be that democratic-voting progressive counties are getting it because they are the type of individuals that believe investing in education is a key.

    Republicans are just interested in protecting the interests and initiatives of the wealthy and rich and to comply with the gun-loving zealots of this state.

    • Aaron

      When you talk of democrats, are you talking of little d West Virginia democrats or Big D national Democrats?

      • Wowbagger

        Democrats are all the same those, apparently like you, who claim West Virginia Democrats are different and actually believe what they claim are deluding themselves. Old style Jeffersonian democrats (my grandfather was one) are disorganized and their opinions are ignored, although their votes are welcomed at election time by the real progressive Democratic Party!

        • Aaron

          Sorry to bust you're bubble pal but I'm no more a delusional democrat than I am a radical republican. In my humble opinion, both parties have succumbed to the extreme fanatics of their respective party and neither represent the core values of a majority of Americans.

          • Steve

            While I would be considered a moderately left democrat, I would have to agree with the last part of your statement.

  • Jim

    Not the progressive counties. Berkeley County is Republican. The southern coalfields will always be poor until they change to R. Wonder if that will ever happen?

    • CaptainQ

      How about.. never?

      Don't forget all those legions of 'graveyard' Democrats who somehow FIND a way to cast a straight Democratic Party ticket each election. To misquote Gen. Douglas McArthur: "Old WV Democrats never die, they just keep on voting..."

  • Todd

    Ron, its West Virginia. They're all democratic counties.

  • Ron bumgarner

    Is it me all the money goes to democratic counties

    • Do What's Best

      Why must everything be filtered with a "D" or an "R". Schools are for everyone and modern ones are much needed in West Virginia.