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NIAGARA FALLS - City public school officials, disappointed by voters' disapproval last year of a $130 million bond issue to renovate or enlarge school buildings and improve athletic fields, are hoping for a vastly different outcome this Tuesday.

A scaled-down borrowing of $67 million will be submitted to voters in Tuesday's referendum for a project called "Inventing Tomorrow."

If approved by voters, "Inventing Tomorrow" will "allow schools to make repairs, increase security, become more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, improve energy efficiency, increase student achievement and provide artificial turf for athletic fields," according to Judie Gregory Glaser, public relations director for the school district.

During informal discussions, members of the School Board and administrators have expressed dismay over the voters' rejection of last year's $130 million bond proposal.

They have insisted that the whole $130 million would have been paid for with state funds that would not have cost local property owners a single penny in additional taxes.

Contending that the state money would be spent, anyway, on other school districts throughout the state, their prevailing opinion was that Niagara Falls should have voted to get its "fair share" of that money.

Russell J. Petrozzi, who was president of the School Board at that time, said: "The voters of Niagara Falls have just sent a check for $130 million to Long Island." Niagara Falls was said to be the only district in the state to turn down a bond issue that would have made use of that money.

Others suggested that the referendum failed because of some voters' increasing reluctance to spend any public money on anything. The vote against the borrowing was 1,274 to 1,197.

School Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco stressed that this week's $67 million referendum would be paid for entirely with "state money," not with local tax money.

Most of the state money will come from financial aid for buildings and from a fund called EXCEL, for Expanded Children's Education and Learning. The rest will come from Greenway funds provided by the New York Power Authority as part of its relicensing agreement for the Niagara Power Project along the Niagara River.

The Greenway funds will be used for improvements to the schools' athletic fields, which are not eligible for building aid from the state Education Department.

School Board President Carmelette Rotella said artificial turf would be installed on athletic fields at LaSalle Preparatory School, Niagara Falls High School and Nicoletti Field.

"Artificial turf is safer, cheaper and easier to maintain than natural turf," she said.

"You can see for yourself at Lewiston-Porter or Hamburg high schools."

School Board member Don J. King said last week, "I don't understand how anyone could vote against a referendum like this that doesn't cost them anything." He is the longest-serving member of the board, with more than 30 years' service.

State funds for the bond ?issue come principally from state income taxes, state sales taxes, fees, federal assistance and other sources, most of ?which ultimately come from taxpayers. Greenway funds come from rate-payers who use electricity from the Niagara Power Project.

No organized opposition to the referendum has arisen in Niagara Falls, where voting ?will take place from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday at neighborhood polling places throughout the city.

"These projects include reconstruction and upgrades to schools and improvements to health, safety, security and instruction," according to the "Our Schools" newsletter published by the school district. "The district also needs to address the limited technology infrastructure available in order to operate a modern technology program in the schools," according to the newsletter.

"Without improvements to technology, the students will be at a competitive disadvantage compared to those from other districts. The community can undertake these projects at no additional cost to the taxpayer," the newsletter continues.

"'Inventing Tomorrow' will not result in a local tax increase. No students or staff will be ?displaced to complete the projects."

If approved, the work would be completed in phases, beginning in June 2013 and lasting four to five years.

Among the project highlights:

. 79th Street Elementary School: Visitor entry system, wireless networking, install communications system, science lab, fire alarm, color high-definition security cameras outside, emergency exit lighting, and reconstruction relating to masonry, air handlers, piping, water distribution, exterior walls, sidewalks and showers to eliminate sewer gas odors.

. Harry F. Abate School: Visitor entry system, wireless networking, ADA compliant forum, lowering devices for forum lighting, permanent seating in forum, communications system, science lab, fire alarm, emergency exit lighting, color high-definition security cameras outside, and reconstruction relating to ceilings, sidewalks, roof, skylights, exterior walls, elevator lift, masonry and sewer line.

. Cataract Elementary School: Visitor entry system, wireless networking, communications system, science lab, fire alarm, emergency exit lighting, color high-definition security cameras outside, and reconstruction relating to concrete, roof, skylights, exterior walls and parapets.

. Hyde Park Elementary School: Visitor entry system, wireless networking, communications system, science lab, fire alarm, emergency exit lighting, color high-definition security cameras outside, and reconstruction relating to masonry, air handlers, exterior walls and foundation, and oil tank originally installed in 1979.

. Henry J. Kalfas Elementary School: Visitor entry system, wireless networking, communications system, science lab, fire alarm, emergency exit lighting, color high-definition security cameras outside, and reconstruction relating to heating system, hot water system, ceilings in classrooms, oil tank and piping.

. G.J. Mann Elementary School: Visitor entry system, wireless networking, communications system, science lab, fire alarm, emergency exit lighting, color high-definition security cameras outside, domestic hot water boiler, and reconstruction relating to masonry, air handler system and oil tank.

. Maple Avenue Elementary School: Visitor entry system, wireless networking, communications system, science lab, fire alarm, emergency exit lighting, color high-definition security cameras outside, and reconstruction relating to radiator, exterior walls, masonry, steam piping, drain pipes, plumbing and exterior walls.

. Niagara Street Elementary School: Visitor entry system and wireless networking.

. Gaskill Preparatory School: Reconstruct dressing rooms in gymnasium, visitor entry system, wireless networking, communications system, science lab, fire alarm, emergency exit lighting, and reconstruction relating to masonry, bearing walls, drains and air handler system.

. LaSalle Preparatory School: Reconstruct dressing rooms in gymnasium, domestic hot water boiler, visitor entry system, wireless networking, communications system, science lab, fire alarm, emergency exit lighting, artificial turf on athletic field, and reconstruction relating to roof, masonry, concrete, storm drain, electrical, air handling system and foundation.



. Niagara Falls High School: Visitor entry system, wireless networking, emergency exit lighting, artificial turf on athletic fields, and reconstruction relating to roof, concrete and physical education showers to eliminate sewer gas odor.





email: ?rbaldwin@buffnews.com