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Voters in the Auburn Enlarged City School District will decide the fate of a proposed $43.7 million capital project that would include health and safety upgrades in each of its seven instructional buildings and the administrative headquarters.

District residents will be able to vote for the proposed project on Tuesday at Casey Park Elementary School and Seward Elementary School. Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo said if a person has gone to the Casey Park school for the district's annual budget vote in the past, they would cast their vote at Casey Park Tuesday. Those who have voted at any other school in the past would vote at Seward. 

The proposed project would have two phases, with a first phase slated to cost $28 million and the remaining balance in the second phase. The proposal is the result of years-long process triggered by a state-required buildings condition assessment completed in 2015-16. The district's most recent capital project involving all district facilities was approved by voters in 2011.

While state aid would cover about 85 percent of the 2019 project's costs, it would require a 1.98-percent increase in the local property tax levy. For a $100,000 home, that comes to a $36 annual increase, Pirozzolo said.

Should voters approve the project, the district looks to open bidding from contractors by November or December 2019 and begin construction by spring 2020. The second phase is estimated for a 2023 start in the hopes of ending the endeavor by 2026.

Safety and security are set to factor heavily into the possible project, with the middle school and every elementary school except Seward receiving secured entrances that would prevent visitors from getting to student areas without running into additional security. Seward had previously gained a more secured entrance, though it and Auburn High School would receive some security upgrades through the new project, Pirozzolo said.

Every elementary school and the middle school are set to receive partial air conditioning and air relief systems at an estimated cost of around $7 million. While doors and windows had been opened at the building in decades past, allowing for natural air relief, he said, safety concerns require all of the windows and doors to be closed, so these new systems would allow for air relief during the hotter weeks of the school year. 

Various structural improvements to the buildings are slated for the project, as well. Pirozzolo said preventive maintenance work is done in the school buildings daily, but the capital project is set to include multiple infrastructure costs that would be too expensive to cover through the district's annual budget. For example, replacing Owasco Elementary School's aging roof would cost $2.4 million, which is equivalent to an approximate 6.4-percent tax levy increase, he said. He noted the district receives 85-percent in state building aid for capital projects, and state building aid can only be used on capital project work. 

To increase community awareness for the vote, the district has held three public hearings and run guest columns in The Citizen, Pirozzolo said. He said he has also done radio interviews and held presentations with various local groups about the project and the district has sent out postcards on the initiative as well.

Although the superintendent said he feels many people in the area are unaware of the impending vote, the discussions he has had have been supportive.

"People have been pretty positive and they understand the safety and security issues," 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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