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BOARD TO HOLD MEETING ON CLASSROOM CRUNCH

Its meetings rarely draw more than a half-dozen people, but the Cheektowaga Central School Board is hoping a special session next month on a space crunch in district schools will attract a crowd.

Officials last week said postcards are going out notifying residents of a "community meeting" at 7 p.m. Oct. 4 in the cafetorium at Union East Elementary School on Union Road, just north of Walden Avenue.

"We . . . are facing a dilemma and need your help," the postcards say.

"Both Union East Elementary and the Junior-Senior High School lack classroom and cafeteria space. Our library and science laboratories need upgrades to meet new state standards.

"We can address these concerns with a bond issue, or by using portable classrooms and/or operating on split sessions."

"Make your voice heard" by attending the Oct. 4 meeting, the board's terse message to taxpayers concludes.

Cheektowaga Central residents might not attend board meetings, but they do vote -- as seen last spring when the board gave them a choice between $28.7 million and $22.7 million construction bond proposals to solve space problems.

Almost 2,000 voters turned out to vote "no" to both projects -- resoundingly -- in spite of the promise of 10 percent more in state aid.

Now, the board is looking at more-modest building proposals.

A $18.9 million proposal would, among other improvements, see construction of a middle school, relieving pressure on overcrowded Union East. The second, costing about $13.9 million, would add classrooms at Union East while also upgrading various other facilities.

According to projections, the more expensive project would add about $1.30 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to the annual school tax bill of a homeowner with a $50,000 assessment. The $13.9 million project, meanwhile, would cost just under $1 more per $1,000 on the same home, officials say.

Before putting out another bond issue, the board says it wants to test the waters of public opinion -- and that's why it has called for the Oct. 4 meeting.

If the $13.9 million option is selected, a referendum could be held in December. But officials have said that a vote on the $18.9 million plan probably couldn't be held until January or February because of state environmental review regulations.

No building plan at all will probably mean portable classrooms and/or split sessions as early as next fall, officials said at the board's Sept. 11 meeting.

In a plea to residents at that meeting, School Superintendent Leslie B. Lewis said: "We're looking for responses, ideas, input -- give us a clue."

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