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CAPITAL PROJECT PROCEEDS AMID UNSETTLED FUNDING

Despite shaky financial backing from the state, the Tonawanda City School District is moving ahead on its $26.4 million capital project and hopes to begin construction by early August.

The School Board heard a report from architects and planners on the status of the capital project during Tuesday's meeting.

After months of delay, the state has approved plans for renovating the school buildings, allowing the district to accept bids for construction.

However, the state has yet to pass the budget, which may affect whether the district gets 89.1 percent aid, as it was offered last year, or 79.1 percent, which is the normal funding rate for capital projects.

Tonawanda residents voted for the project with the state offering 89.1 percent, but state lawmakers are having second thoughts about such approvals.

School Superintendent Diana Greene said there is no guarantee from the state that it will provide the extra 10 percent in funding, a difference of about $2 million. District officials have lobbied State Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville, and Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, to support the capital project. Greene said the district is also consulting with bonding officials to analyze the chances of success.

"If you change these dynamics, can you imagine the angry villagers?" she said.

Regardless of the funding concerns, the district will begin seeking bids for construction.

According to project architect Scott Jones of Gordon W. Jones Associates, there would be no harm to the district to open the project for bidding in order to remain on schedule.

"We didn't want to be one of the districts that waited until (the state) was all done with the budget and then go out to bid," he said. "If we lose the summer, we're going to have a major problem in meeting the (construction) deadline."

Greene said the School Board has the ultimate decision to move forward if there is no resolution from the state by the time construction is scheduled to start.

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