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VOTE SET WEDNESDAY ON SCHOOL PROJECTS

Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District voters will go to the polls Wednesday to decide the fate of a $37.7 million building project designed to handle growing enrollment.

If approved, the project will raise the property tax bill by about 1 percent a year -- or $16 on the average bill of $1,600 -- for five years, school officials say.

Balloting will be held from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Errick Road Elementary School, 6939 Errick Road, Wheatfield.

The project includes additions at West Street Elementary, the senior high school and Edward Town Middle School, as well as repairs and maintenance work at Colonial Village and Errick Road elementary schools.

It would be financed with bonds that would be paid off by 2010.

State aid would cover about 96 percent of the proposed additions.

The district would receive about 76 percent of the project cost back for the repairs and maintenance work.

This level of aid would not be available for constructing a new building, school officials noted.

Housing growth in Wheatfield has added at least 500 students to the classrooms since 1994, officials said.

School Superintendent Judith Howard said the district's schools now have an enrollment of 4,057, compared with 3,929 in June. The senior high and Errick Road Elementary schools account for most of the growth, she said.

Most of the project involves additional classroom and facility space at the three schools, site work to accommodate buses and student and staff parking, and corridor and cafeteria space to handle more students.

But it will include purchasing about 47 acres on the east side of the middle and senior high school complex on Saunders Settlement Road as a potential building site.

The land, meanwhile, would be used for four full soccer fields.

Officials describe the land acquisition as "a great investment," saying the property always could be sold at a profit.

Few have attended the information sessions that sought to explain the project to various groups and the public.

If the bond issue passes, architectural plans would be completed and sent to the state Education Department for approval.

If the state approved the plans by late next fall, construction contracts could be awarded by January 2006, according to the presentation.

Construction would begin the following spring, with completion scheduled for summer 2007.

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