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Voters to consider $10.6 million in upgrades

Voters in the Williamsville School District will be asked in May to approve a $10.6 million project to replace aging boilers, improve parking lot safety, update fire alarm systems and add air conditioning to computer labs.

The project would update boilers at seven schools that are 38 to 56 years old. The new boilers would be 10 to 20 percent more efficient, district officials estimate. They anticipate an annual savings as high as $115,000.

The project also would include electrical work at some schools, as well as sound system replacements and minor improvements to accessibility for the handicapped.

Each of the district's 13 schools would have some work done but to varying degrees, based on need, officials said. Only $46,000 is budgeted for Country Parkway Elementary, where the fire alarm system would be replaced and handicapped accessibility would be enhanced.

On the other end of the spectrum is Maple East Elementary, where $2.2 million would be spent. Two-thirds of that amount would cover the cost of reconfiguring the bus loop and student drop-off areas to ensure that parents are not dropping off their children in the same area used by school buses.

Similar work would be done on the bus loop and student drop-off areas at Forest Elementary, which is in line for a total of $1.4 million in work, and Heim Elementary, which would receive $1.3 million in improvements.

The project earmarks $420,000 to add air conditioning in the computer labs in all 13 schools.

The state would reimburse about two-thirds of the project's cost through income taxes collected statewide. School districts across New York are eligible for reimbursement for building projects at varying levels.

"We're not increasing our income taxes; we're just trying to bring more of them back to Williamsville," said Williamsville School Board President Linda K. Viksjo.

District officials are touting the building project as one that will not add to the tax burden.

"There will be no tax impact because the dollars are already available in the budget from past debt service," said Assistant School Superintendent Thomas R. Maturski.

What this means is that the district has been paying on existing debt for several years. That is nearly paid off, meaning that the district will no longer have those payments. The money that has been used to make those debt payments could be applied to the general budget.

Instead, if voters approve the project, that money would be used to make payments on the new debt that would be generated. The annual payments on a 15-year bond would be about $800,000, Maturski said. If that money were applied to the district's overall budget rather than the capital project, homeowners would see their property taxes drop, but by only one-third of 1 percent.

The board is expected to officially put the project on the ballot at its March 28 meeting.

This project is the first phase of two in building improvements. The second phase, estimated to cost $10.7 million, could be on the ballot as early as 2008, Maturski said.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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