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Carthage district discusses capital project exit poll results

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WEST CARTHAGE — Thirty-two voters who responded to an exit poll on Carthage Central School District’s capital construction proposal felt uninformed about the project, according to the district’s compilation of polling data.

At Monday’s meeting at Carthage High School, the Board of Education discussed what its next steps should be regarding the failed project and how to better inform residents.

Last week, the district’s $16.9 million project — which included security upgrades and basic maintenance — was defeated 431-311.

“I don’t think we still have identified why the vote was defeated,” said board member Mary Louise Hunt. “If it’s just a general ‘We don’t want to pay taxes,’ then I understand.”

If the first $13.2 million proposition had passed, taxes to pay for the project would have been $1.01 per $100,000 in assessed property value each year for 15 years. Together, the two propositions would have cost the average taxpayer $1.33 per $100,000 each year.

Only 209 of the 742 people who cast votes chose to complete the exit poll. However, not every section was filled out by all respondents. Only 174 people answered a question asking whether the voter felt well informed about the project.

According the exit poll survey, 36 percent of people who voted against the project felt uninformed about it.

Mrs. Hunt said there should be more informal sessions at libraries or in front of stores to educate the public on future capital projects. She said she did not want the board to pursue another referendum this school year.

Board Vice President Lori D. Miller said the taxes and savings could have been better explained.

“We need to focus on the dollars and cents of the project,” Mrs. Miller said. “Really break it down for them. We do know who those naysayers are. We can get some feedback from them.”

However, board member Brian K. Serota said that of the 14 residents who went to the project’s public hearing, only a handful asked questions or aired grievances about the project. He said he felt it would be impossible to understand what the public wants if the public does not inform the board.

“I don’t really give a crap if someone’s offended,” Mr. Serota said. “I don’t have any hidden agenda from something that happened five or 10 years ago.”

According to the exit poll, 7 percent of negative voters and 9 percent of positive voters were informed through public information meetings. Approximately 57 percent of those who voted no were informed through the district newsletter or through mailings.

Superintendent Peter J. Turner pointed out that although more than 50 percent of the district’s students are military-related, fewer than 10 people from Fort Drum voted on the project.

“Can you get more voters if you set up a location at Great Bend?” Mr. Turner said.

He said the board would need to make a decision on changing or adding locations soon, before legal notices are mailed. No decision was made at the meeting.

Board member Joseph A. Colangelo said he feared residents would think there was a hidden agenda behind moving the polling location.

“People are going to think that the board is moving the location to get more ‘yes’ votes from Fort Drum,” Mr. Colangelo said.

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