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Voters reject school upgrades

Residents of the Ballston Spa School District voted down a referendum to make renovations to the middle and high schools by a wide margin in a Thursday, Dec. 11 vote. The project was rejected by a near two-to-one margin, with 843 votes for the $56.1 million project, and 1,664 votes against.

The project was chiefly comprised of a 70,000-square-foot expansion to the middle school, which was built in 1957 for a population of 800 students. Middle school enrollment for the 2009-10 school year is estimated at 1,053 students.

The state was primed to chip in 79 percent of the cost of the upgrades. The district estimated that the average $221,000 home would have paid an extra $120 in annual taxes for the project, starting in 2012. The estimates didn't include any school taxes that an AMD microchip manufacturing facility in Malta would pay.

We're disappointed, but from my chair what's important was to see that there was great participation in the vote, said Superintendent Joseph Dragone. "At this time, this wasn't a project that the public wanted."

Even with Thursday's poor weather canceling the district's after school activities, the referendum drew larger numbers than the May school budget vote, in which 2,337 votes were cast.

Ballston Spa has pursued the upgrades since 2004, contracting CS Arch for the preliminary designs. Dragone said that the district will likely revisit an upgrade in the future when the economic climate is more favorable.

"It's not like the overcrowding or the building efficiency or the programming has been resolved," he said. "Hopefully we can come with something that the community will endorse.""

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