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VOTERS OK PROJECT TO TACKLE GROWTH

Residents voted, 932-540, Wednesday to support a $37.7 million building project that will address growing enrollment in the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District.

Planned are additions and improvements for most district school buildings.

The project is expected to raise property taxes by about 1 percent a year, or $16 on the average bill of $1,600, during each of the five years of bond financing to be paid off by 2010, officials said. State aid will pay for about 76 percent of the project, officials said.

Niagara-Wheatfield is coping with a growth spurt from a housing boom in Wheatfield. More than 120 new students enrolled in the district in the fall, raising the classroom population to 4,057. Most of the growth has been at Errick Road Elementary School, which is in Wheatfield, and the senior high school.

Included in the project are additions at West Street Elementary, the senior high and Edward Town Middle School and repairs and maintenance at Colonial Village and Errick Road. More classrooms, additional facility space, better access roads and parking lots as well as larger corridors and cafeterias are planned.

A significant component of the project is the purchase of 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 at the onset would be used for four soccer fields.

School Business Executive Kerin Dumphrey said that, in light of the vote, district officials would complete the agreement on the land purchase. Also, architectural specifications will be completed and submitted to the state Department of Education for approval, he added.

Contracts could be awarded in early 2006, with working getting under way by spring of that year.

School Superintendent Judith Howard credited the vote result to "a strong job of communicating throughout the community," through informational forums, fliers and articles in the district's newsletter.

She also added that the referendum wasn't complicated by the politics of a School Board election, which allowed voters to concentrate on the "single issue."

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