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Carthage Central residents shoot down capital project

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CARTHAGE — The second capital project proposal in two years has been shot down by Carthage Central School District voters.

The $13.2 million project was defeated 431-311 Tuesday night.

“I am disappointed,” said Board of Education President Barbara A. Lofink. “I feel it was a good energy-savings, cost-savings plan. We will rework it and take it to the table again.”

Last June, residents voted down a proposed $34.5 million project, 785-185, that would have included upgrades for the high school science wing and getting rid of the district’s Great Bend facility.

In an effort to get the new proposal to pass, the district gave residents two options rather than rolling them into one.

The first proposition, which would have cost $1.01 per $1,000 in assessed property value per year for 15 years, included upgraded security and basic maintenance.

The second proposition, which could pass only if the first one did, would have added four classrooms to West Carthage Elementary and allowed for a districtwide technology update. Together, the two propositions — $16.9 million — would have cost the average taxpayer $1.33 per thousand.

The negative vote means the district will have to wait to replace its boiler and conduct asbestos abatement, among other things.

The project, had it passed, would have been eligible for 98 percent state aid, according to Superintendent Peter J. Turner. In addition, $700,000 from the district’s $2 million EXCEL (Expanding Our Children’s Education and Learning) grant could have been put toward the project. Without a capital project, maintenance items would not be eligible for state aid. At the project’s public hearing, Mr. Turner warned that the EXCEL grant may be taken away in as little as two months.

“Am I surprised?” Mrs. Lofink said. “No. There’s tax fatigue. This is the only municipality that residents can vote on the budget. They can’t vote on the village or county budgets.”

Exit polls she was poring over in the high school library showed that many who voted against the project vote against all tax increases.

Mrs. Lofink said she was “disheartened” that there was sparse attendance at the public hearing last week and at board meetings during which the capital project was discussed.

“But they all come out here and vote no,” she said.

Mr. Turner said he didn’t try to predict what the outcome of the vote would be.

“The board will have to weigh its options to see what its next steps will be,” Mr. Turner said. “I’d like to say thank you to the people who took the time to vote.”

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