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NEW SCHOOL COST SHAVED $6 MILLION

The price tag of Orchard Park's proposed new high school has been shaved to $84 million from $90 million in hopes the project will be a better sell to the community when it faces a vote in December.

The School Board on Tuesday agreed to have the district's architect, Gordon Jones Associates, prepare more detailed plans for the scaled-back project, which previously has been criticized by some in the community for its high price tag.

The board offered a list of reductions: smaller classrooms and cutting the number of special-education classrooms by four, reducing the size of the athletic foyer and some storage areas, eliminating locker bays and moving them to corridors, deleting a music room and reducing the number of auditorium seats to 1,200 from 1,300 while adding a balcony, and cutting the size of the planned cafeteria eating area.

The cuts were made after a lengthy meeting last week with the Facilities Review Committee.

The scaled-back project would increase taxes by an average of 6.6 percent from the current tax rate over the 30 years it would take to pay for the facility. That is based on an increase of $1.51 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for a 30-year average.

In the first year alone, however, the 93-cent tax rate increase would amount to a 4.1 percent increase.

Under the earlier $90 million proposal, the tax increase would have averaged around 8.1 percent.

School officials believe the project could be in line for about 49 percent state reimbursement.

Despite the cutbacks, board member Vicki Jefferis said the board did not lose sight of what is important in the proposal.

"The integrity of the building is very important. There are a lot of things you can't add later," she said.

The scaled-back proposal includes some air conditioning but not in classrooms. The board is thinking of putting a separate proposition before voters for $700,000 to pay for bleachers and lighting in the athletic fields, which would add three cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Officials still are debating including air conditioning throughout the complex and are waiting for more cost estimates. One option is to offer that, too, as a separate proposition for another $2 million to $2.5 million.

Putting air conditioning in the entire building would cost taxpayers an additional 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for 30 years, based on the higher $2.5 million air-conditioning estimate.

School officials said they are still studying the issue and weighing costs.

Intermediate string overflow Cannot justify line Board member Richard Jablonski urged the board to speed up the process and let the community have its say on the new school.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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