November 15, 2013 at 11:03 PM
SOUTH ORANGE-MAPLEWOOD, NJ – A petition on the website change.org created to express opposition to the proposed construction of a new swimming pool at Columbia High School has attracted more than 300 supporters as of this writing.
The $8.1 million project is hotly debated across the school district. The existing pool at CHS is in disrepair and no longer meets the requirements for use in interscholastic competition. However, a new pool is seen by many as a “want” and not a “need” in a district facing looming budget shortfalls and $90 million worth of other repairs and improvements that have already been identified.
The Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposal at its meeting this Monday, November 18, at 7:30 p.m. at 525 Academy Street.
A public forum was held to discuss the matter. Our full story on that meeting may be found here.
The message relayed on the petition reads as follows:
“We, citizens of South Orange and Maplewood, urge the Board of Education NOT to approve the construction of a new pool at Columbia High School, which would require $8.1 million of debt to finance. South Orange-Maplewood’s property taxes are already excessive. We cannot afford to deepen our school system’s ballooning budget shortfall (estimated to reach $17.4 million by 2018) by building this unnecessary luxury project. More importantly, we cannot sacrifice educational programming to make annual debt payments in excess of $600,000 for a new pool. The Board of Education must be fiscally responsible and use its limited resources for the greatest educational impact. The Board of Education must focus on its core academic mission and stabilize taxes!”