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DISTRICT UNVEILS 8-YEAR RENOVATION PLAN

An expanded eight-year plan to renovate most schools in the Williamsville district was unveiled by school officials Tuesday, in time for a forum tonight on the district's plans for comprehensive capital improvements.

The improvement projects, which district officials say will be paid for without an increase in the tax rate, will be discussed during the 7 p.m. public meeting in Williamsville East High School on Paradise Road.

Richard A. Hitzges, assistant superintendent for finance, said that an expansion and renovation of Casey Middle School -- the project's first phase -- will not take place until the 1998-99 school year, if voters approve the building project in a vote next summer.

Following the improvements to the Casey building, Hitzges said, the order of renovations is planned as follows: Mill Middle School, 1999-2000; Heim Middle School, 2000-01; Williamsville North High School, 2001-02; Williamsville East and South high schools, 2002-03; and renovations to the district's elementary schools, 2003-05.

Also to be improved during the eight-year time frame are some of the district's computer and phone systems, energy-efficient lighting systems, and lockers.

The first-phase expansion project at Casey, projected at a cost of $15.7 million, will include a new two-story wing of classrooms, with one of the building's current classroom wings to be renovated for use as administrative offices, officials said.

Currently, the district has offices in rented space on Lawrence Bell Drive, at an annual cost of more than $300,000, officials said.

Superintendent Ann B. Fuqua has said that the district-wide vote on the capital projects will take place after July 1, 1998, when the amount of state aid available to the district will go up 10 percent.

Hitzges said that about $9.6 million in state aid will be available to the district for the Casey project, leaving residents with about $6.1 million in local cost. By paying off existing debts yet keeping debt service at 1996-97 level until 2017, he said, the district will be able to complete the slate of projects without increasing the tax rate.

"The (financial) model does appear that it will support the project as we move through the phases," Hitzges said. "The school renovations are in phases, so we can do them based on our ability to spend."

Tonight's scheduled two-hour public forum will include an explanation of the capital improvements plan by district officials and a period of public comment on the proposal.

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