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Voters turn down $21.2 million outlay

Voters defeated a $21.2 million capital improvement project in a referendum held Tuesday at Franklinville Central School and Ten Broeck Academy.

An unofficial vote count of 236 to 183 was reported by school officials Wednesday.

At issue is the status of 27 paper ballots, School Superintendent Dennis Johnson said.

"This is not about me winning or losing, or the district -- its about the district presenting opportunities for kids, and there are no winners or losers here. We'll speak with members of the community and go forward, we'll get the message out in a better way, and we'll have a more informed public," said Johnson, promising to trim down the project and seek another referendum. "Everyone in the community can achieve success. This is the way it goes sometimes."

In rejecting the ballot, voters refused to authorize the $56,000 purchase of a home at 12 N. Academy St. for demolition. The space would have been used to enlarge a parking lot near the high school and bus garage.

Other aspects of the defeated project were construction of an auditorium to replace the school's original auditorium and its wooden folding seats, enlarged cafeterias in both buildings, nine new classrooms, a dedicated Middle School section in the high school, enlarged fine arts sections in the high school and elementary buildings, improved athletic facilities and a no-maintenance turf athletic field.

The district is eligible for 96.2 percent building aid, which could have been applied to a portion of the plan, along with $682,000 in EXCEL Aid, and the project was estimated to cost the average STAR-eligible taxpayer about $10 more a year.

Johnson said he and the School Board have already decided to begin asking residents how the project should be trimmed and why they voted against it.

It will be returned to the voters after 90 days for another referendum so construction bids can be advertised next winter.

"A good opportunity [to talk] will be at the Maple Festival this weekend and we have a room set up at the elementary school where we will invite the people to review the project and take a survey of what they like or not, what they could support or not in the future," Johnson said.

He added that the project contained many unnecessary items that were included to maximize aid, but half of the project has to be done. A new building committee will be formed to refocus the capital project plan and determine why it was defeated, he said.

"Was it the financial burden? Was it misinformation? The auditorium, the classrooms, the turf field?" Johnson said, suggesting possible reasons for the defeat.

Among the "yes" votes counted were 172 on the machine and 11 absentees. "No" votes included 228 machine votes and eight absentees. Instead of the usual sign-in practice for voters, district officials decided to check voters names against the official county registration rolls to verify eligibility as voters arrived the polling place set up in the rear foyer of the high school athletic wing.

Twenty-seven names could not be found on the rolls, and these people were given a paper ballot. These ballots were then sent to the Board of Elections early Wednesday and checked for addresses before they were returned to the district at about 1 p.m. Wednesday.

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