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Carthage Central sets a public vote date for capital project

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GREAT BEND — The public will be able to vote on Carthage Central School District’s capital construction project proposal March 19.

The main $13.15 million project to address safety, security and building maintenance issues districtwide will be presented as the first proposition, the Board of Education decided at its Wednesday meeting. The second proposition would include the first project in addition to a smaller, $3.75 million project to address technology upgrades and West Carthage Elementary classroom additions.

Board member Mary Louise Hunt was worried voters would be confused and try to vote only on the second proposition, perhaps because they have ties with West Carthage Elementary. However, the board is trying to find a way not to allow residents to vote on the second proposition if they vote against the first one.

Mrs. Hunt also wanted to know exactly what the money for the technology upgrades would go toward.

Board President Barbara A. Lofink said the project will focus on the basic infrastructure, to build bandwidth and help support future technology additions.

“We’re getting to the point of overload with the system we have now,” Mrs. Lofink said. “We’re getting to the point where we’re past capacity.”

Both Mrs. Hunt and teachers union President Patricia A. Sheehan, who is also a facilities committee member, said this was the first time they were told the money would serve that direct purpose.

Board member Kent D. Burto said if the technology and classroom addition proposition were considered a necessity, there should be only one proposition to convey their importance.

“We’re talking 32 cents,” he said. “We should be upfront with the public about our needs.”

The total cost for both projects would be $16.9 million, $17.6 million less than last year’s defeated proposal, and would cost the average homeowner $1.33 per year.

Ms. Sheehan said the committee wanted to have the two propositions to win voters back after the last capital project did not pass. However, if technology was a maintenance issue, she said, it should have been addressed that way originally.

Mr. Burto said he still felt there should be one proposition but wanted to respect the facilities committee’s decision to have two because of the work it put into it.

The board voted unanimously to accept the date for the public to vote on the project as noon to 9 p.m. March 19 in the Carthage High School library.

The facilities committee will meet again Monday to move forward with the project.

“This is our last chance, or we are going to have to find a way to absorb it in our budget over the next five years,” board member Lori D. Miller said.

Before the board approved the referendum, there was a question of whether there should be one or two propositions on the ballot. Some board members felt creating a basic infrastructure for technology should be added to the bare bones maintenance project originally presented.

“I’m wondering if we’re shooting ourselves in the foot with the two propositions,” Mrs. Hunt said.

The board eventually voted to have the two propositions as presented at the Jan. 14 meeting, but not without a discussion.

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