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Beach group questions cost of school system

By Regina Weiss, The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 13--A newly formed group of Colonial Beach residents are voicing frustration about the town's budget and school funding.

While school supporters have asked the council to support the school system financially, Colonial Beach Concerned Citizens is asking the town to take a step back.

The group formed two months ago after a heated public hearing over a proposed 23-cent tax increase per $100 of assessed value in the town's real estate tax rate.

Nine members of the group attended Thursday night's Town Council meeting. They including Lorraine Blancke, who spoke as the group's main representative.

"We want to help you help this town," she said to the council.

The group is mainly concerned about the cost of relocating several hundred elementary students in the fall to the high school campus, and cuts to the 2015 town budget that total almost $400,000.

The concerned citizens asked questions about a memorandum of understanding still being drafted between the school and the town.

The memorandum will address the old high school property's future and the repayment of bond money used for the elementary school relocation.

The burned former high school will be turned over to the town after the School Board receives an insurance settlement, and proceeds from the sale of the old high school will pay back the relocation bond, Mayor Mike Ham said.

Still, the group does not approve of funding the school when cuts to the town budget are a result. Cuts include $30,000 from street improvements and $110,000 for roads and drainage in Riverside Meadows.

"The Town Council must take an interest in protecting its citizens," group member Jean Conaty said.

Other questions raised by the group include: whether the School Board provides a full account of school expenditures; if town taxpayers pay for non-local students to attend Colonial Beach schools; and how many high school students attend and complete college after graduation.

The group also asked for a cost-benefit analysis of combining the town school system with Westmoreland County Public Schools.

Blancke said keeping the schools in Colonial Beach is not helping the taxpayers or the students.

"The tax base of Colonial Beach just can no longer afford to pay for a private school system inside the town," Blancke said after the meeting.

The Town Council agreed to answer the group's questions within a week.

"I think we were recognized and I hope that moving forward there will be some answers coming from this," Blancke said.

Regina Weiss 540/374-5444

rweiss@freelancestar.com

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(c)2014 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)

Visit The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.) at www.fredericksburg.com/flshome

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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