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Cato-Meridian Central School District voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the state paying additional aid on an energy performance contract.

The proposal was if residents wanted an additional 10 percent in state aid toward the costs of $2.4 million in upgrades to various systems within the district's buildings within the energy contract.

The proposal passed by a 61-4 vote.

That extra 10 percent, or $240,000, is an incentive through the state for energy performance contracts, and the state is obligated to honor the vote. A vote was not required for the improvement themselves to go forward.

District Superintendent Terry Ward previously said the improvements will not raise taxes and the district will bond for the local share of the expenses, but the entire bond will be covered through savings in energy costs over the next 15 years. State aid was previously set to cover 78 percent of the cost, but the community vote for the 10 percent boost will raise that to 88 percent. 

The contract includes upgrades to insulation, lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in the district's elementary, middle and high schools. The district estimates it will realize about $144,000 in savings annually through the updates, and the state Education Department will monitor the savings. The upgrades will be executed by the Syracuse office of the John W. Danforth Co.

The improvements within the energy contract are separate from the $6.5 million capital improvement project the community approved last year. Certain improvements originally set for the capital project will now fall under the energy contract, freeing up $642,000 to be directed to security and safety upgrades in the buildings for the capital project. The capital project will now include window film, electronic classroom doors and electronic interior doors to hallways.

Ward said the capital project was approved by the state Education Department last month and the energy contract was submitted to the state Tuesday. The district hopes to get it approved by May 2019, and to start exterior work on the buildings under the capital project that month. The district hopes to have the interior work and the energy contract upgrades done from late June to late August.

Ward said he wasn't surprised by the outcome and thanked the voters.

"I think doing an (energy performance contract) and being able to do the security upgrades was something that was important to the community and it's important to us as well," he said.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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Education Reporter