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Officials plug capital improvement

Amid the backdrop of economic meltdown, Iroquois school officials are attempting to calm voter fears prior to Tuesday's vote on a $49 million capital improvement project.

During an informational hearing last week in Iroquois Middle School, Superintendent Neil Rochelle pointed out the district won't have to borrow on the project for at least two years, at the earliest, when he envisions a more favorable market.

He also noted that the district has an excellent credit rating and managed to obtain an interest rate of about 3 percent when it borrowed on a transportation vehicle purchase last month.

Rochelle also noted the district's reserve fund should be larger by the time borrowing is necessary -- another point in the district's favor. An offshoot of the downturn is that construction and engineering businesses anxious for work are likely to submit more favorable bids.

The district will receive 71 percent in state reimbursement -- a year after the project gets under way.

If voters reject the work, what next?

Rochelle said the district would still have to spend millions of dollars on mandated projects over an undetermined period and the cost would be absorbed completely by local taxpayers rather than getting state reimbursement.

The project, which will entail work at all six district buildings and the bus garage, includes ventilation, heating, electrical and plumbing updates -- the first since 1954, in most cases.

The project also includes additions to the High School, Intermediate School and Elma Primary School, and renovations to the Wales and Marilla primary schools.
The project will be presented to voters in two propositions, the first of which must pass before the second one can take effect. Proposition 1, for $39 million, includes all the renovations and additions. Proposition 2, for $10 million, is mostly for work that could be done later.

State aid would pay for $33 million of the project cost, with the balance coming from taxpayers, financed over 15 years.

An owner of a house assessed at $200,000 would pay $102 a year for Proposition 1 and $133 per year if both propositions pass.

Residents will vote from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Intermediate School on Girdle Road in Elma.

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