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PASS THE BOND ACT SO WE CAN IMPROVE OUR SCHOOLS

I urge voters throughout the state to vote for the SchoolFacility Health and Safety Bond Act of 1997 on Nov. 4.

I favor the bond act fundamentally because its overarching purpose is to better the learning environment for children.

If we look at the age and condition of school buildings in our large cities, there is no better argument for passage of this bond act.

The act would authorize $2.4 billion for capital projects related to the construction, expansion and modernization of public school facilities and provide educational technology for grades K-12 across the state. There is no doubt about the need.

Outside of New York City, the average age of school buildings in large cities in our state is more than 50 years, compared to 38.6 years in other areas. The average age of school buildings in Buffalo is 65 years. Buffalo is still using more than 20 schools that were constructed in 1920.

Consider these other aspects:

The capital program summary for Buffalo schools has identified the need for $180 million in capital spending between now and 2001. However, between 1992 and 1995, the district's capital construction budget was $13.3 million.

The city's public schools also expect to experience enrollment growth that will further impact the capacity of existing buildings and place added wear-and-tear on aging physical plants. The projected growth between 1995 and 2000 is 4.2 percent, for a total of 50,000 students at the start of the new millennium.

The U.S. General Accounting Office has stated that the nation's public schools will require $112 billion to be put into a state of good repair.

The Conference of Big Five School Districts in New York State -- which includes Buffalo and other upstate large cities -- reports that its five districts educate 1.1 million students in one-quarter of all the school buildings statewide.

Buffalo expects to be required to invest $42.5 million in facilities to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Buffalo faces an $85 million tab for asbestos abatement, and the city's schools will need $42.5 million to comply with other environmental standards.

The cost of upgrading schools to handle high-tech facilities such as computer labs and library media is estimated at $85 million. This would entail a wide range of computerization, but not include the cost of computers or software.

All of this data clearly underscores the need and potential benefits of the bond issue. I'm confident that voters will see the wisdom of this measure and act positively on it.

Anthony R. Nanula State Senator, 57th District
Buffalo

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