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Orchard Park voters Tuesday rejected a $16.67 million building project that would have replaced roofs, improved air quality and made the schools fully accessible to the disabled.

Nearly 60 percent of voters opposed the project, which was split into a $11.42 million proposition and another at $5.25 million.

Many residents said the price tag, about $29 a year for the average homeowner, was too high.

"I just think it's kind of extravagant. It's getting to the point that we cannot afford to live in this town anymore," said Elizabeth Cash, who works in customer service for a local printing company.

She supported the $11.42 million proposition, but not the other one.

Scores of parents also said the cost was too great.

"Taxes are high enough," said Renee Schiedel, who has a child in the middle school. "I think they get enough money out of us."

The larger proposition would have replaced the roofs at the high school and middle school and fixed drainage problems at South Davis Elementary.

It also would have replaced ventilators and fire alarms at the three schools and brought them into compliance for handicap accessibility.

The $5.25 million piece was contingent on the other one passing. It would have replaced ventilators and fire alarms and expanded parking at the other three elementary schools.

School Board President Joseph F. Bieron said the board will begin deliberating its next move later this month.

He underscored the need to enlist the support of Mike Dillon and James T. Crean, the two board members who opposed the building projects.

"We're not doing anything without everybody on the board behind it," Bieron said. "We'll have to work toward that. It's easier said than done."

Crean campaigned in May against a similar building project, which was narrowly defeated.

He and Dillon were among a few citizens who sent out a flier this weekend urging residents to vote no on the latest building propositions.

The flier questioned the priorities of the proposed project, which included a new batting cage at the high school and regrading of the football field.

All the necessary health, safety and structural work could be done for $8.1 million, it said -- a position Dillon had championed at the board table.

Bieron and Superintendent Paul J. Grekalski all but waved a white flag in the direction of Dillon and Crean on Tuesday, desperate to get even a scaled-down project passed.

Their most pressing concern is the leaking roofs at the high school and middle school, which officials are worried might not last another year.

The final tally showed 2,746 no votes to 2,001 yes votes on the $11.42 million proposition. The $5.25 million project drew 2,821 votes in opposition and 1,910 in support.

Voters approved a $476,000 measure to buy seven new buses using reserve funds. It will not affect the tax rate.


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