CHATHAM, NJ - The final budget unanimously adopted by the Chatham Board of Education for the 2017-2018 school year on Monday night represented a 2.95 percent increase over last year's budget.

The preliminary budget called for a 2.87 percent increase, but the board adjusted the increase upward to cover anticipated legal costs. The BOE is in the process of complying with an Open Public Records Act request from a law firm in relation to questions two Chatham parents have brought up about the curriculum at the Chatham Middle School.

Chatham Township taxpayers will be responsible for $38 million of the budget, representing 59 percent of the BOE budget. Chatham Borough taxpayers will cover $26.5 million of the budget, representing 41 percent of the total. The total budget is $71.7 million.

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The preliminary budget had allocated $2.1 million of capital reserve funds for a new central office building. The adopted budget added $500,000 in "Excess Surplus" to that total, making it $2.6 million.

In the public portion of the meeting, Chatham resident Mike Ryan pointed to the constant rising costs and asked the board hold off on transferring budget surpluses into capital reserves: "To the extent possible, let's explore every way that we can delay immediate funding of surpluses into the capital reserve." (see full video below).

"I want the board to reconsider the practice of funding the capital reserve account with surplus dollars," Ryan said. "If that practice continues, if we automatically move budget surplus dollars into the capital reserve fund, where it can only be used for the capital projects, the day is going to come when we're sitting in a brand-new building and we're going to have to ask our teachers to forgo pay increases, pay for more of their own health care and have to ask our parents to pay for our kids to join sporting events.

"We have to be very careful about the way we use our budget surplus. There is a mechanism where the school district, I believe, can delay putting their money into the capital reserve account for next year."

Chatham resident Nicole DiMaggio (see below) thanked the board for "investing" in a new building rather than continue to rent from Chatham Township.

Bill Heap asked the board to collect feedback before going forward with a new building. "We have to be careful about being in the construction business, I think." (See full remarks below).

The Chatham Education Foundation donated nearly $14,000, including $10,180 for its Classrooms of the Future to Lafayette School; and the rest for Southern Boulevard School to fund special education and Grade 1 Classrooms of the Future desks.

Amanda Feeman, president of the Chatham Education Foundation reported on the CEF's Casino Royale fundraiser (see video below) held last month, which generated $93,000.