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$24 million school project goes to voters Tuesday

East Aurora school officials hope their intense public relations effort on behalf of a $24 million capital improvement project pays off Tuesday, when taxpayers vote on the proposal.

Administrators say some students have been learning in basement areas and windowless storage rooms in Parkdale and the Main Street schools for years. More demanding curriculum and educational standards, coupled with an increased enrollment of 200 students over the past 20 years, are driving the district's push for more space at Parkdale, Main Street and, to a lesser degree, in the high school.

"We are going all out because we think it's important for people to know all about this," School Board President Daniel Brunson said. "We have no vacant regular classrooms in Parkdale or the Main Street buildings. We owe it to the kids to get them into appropriate spaces for programs and to have the flexibility of elbow room for the future."

If voters reject the project, Brunson said, the problems will become more expensive to fix.

"The problems won't go away, and construction costs would go up by about $1 million a year," Brunson said.

Voting is scheduled in the Main Street School cafeteria from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Fisher-Price executives will be closely watching the outcome of the referendum, since the toymaker and district are deadlocked in negotiations over 5.2 acres of vacant Fisher-Price land that school officials say they need to expand Parkdale.

The Parkdale addition would add 62,352 square feet in a two-story addition with 28 classrooms (grades 1 to 4), special education classrooms and a new library center, along with a one-story addition for a larger gym. Kindergarten classrooms would be renovated. Busing and traffic safety improvements also are planned.

Improvements planned for Parkdale total $15.1 million and would include switching the third and fourth grades to Parkdale from the Main Street School. Main Street, which would become a grade 5 though 8 middle school, is slated for $6.8 million in work, while the high school would receive $2.1 million in improvements.

Taxpayers would face a 3 percent annual tax increase for a home assessed at $83,000 -- amounting to $85.49 more per year.

State aid would cover 71 percent of the cost, leaving the district providing about $7 million. The district plans to tap $2.5 million of a capital reserve fund to help offset the local share, so taxpayers would have to come up with $4.5 million.

e-mail krobinson@buffnews.com

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