Arts & Entertainment

Chatham BOE to Introduce Revised Referendum Plans; Gilfillan Says Arts Still a Priority

Board members Matthew Gilfillan, Jill Critchley Weber and Thomas Belding during open public meeting on $12.8 million referendum Credits: TAP Chatham
Matthew Gilfillan, board chairman of the finance committee Credits: TAP Chatham

CHATHAM, NJ - Board vice president Matthew Gilfillan, chairman of the finance committee, reported at the School District of the Chathams Board of Education meeting on Monday, that plans are in the works to put forth a revised bond referendum "before August" for capital improvement projects.

A $12.8 million bond referendum, which included a new performing arts center, had been voted down by the taxpayers by a 2-to-1 margin on April 21.

Gilfillan and the finance committee are working on most of the same projects, with the main difference being renovation of the high school and middle school auditoriums rather than building a new performing arts center.

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Board president Jill Critchley Weber asks finance chair Matthew Gilfillan to weigh in on whether the the school auditoriums are still a priority in the new referendum discussions

As he said after the referendum was defeated, the arts would be the top priority to any new referendum put before the public. Gilfillan noted that upgrades had been made to classrooms, sports facilities, etc., but "nothing" had been put into improving the arts.

"The continued discussion on the referendum and what we are considering in terms of the legacy portion of the referendum...moving forward in terms of potentially bringing back a referendum to the taxpayers of Chatham," Gilfillan said. "We continue to focus on, one, the refurb (refurbishing) of the high school auditorium, and, two, refurb of the middle school auditorium, renovation to turf fields behind the high school, the changes at Cougar Field, including the new bleachers, middle school STEM classes and also grade school classrooms at Milton, Washington and Southern Boulevard."

Gilfillan said the finance committee is trying to decide whether to break up the projects into different bond questions before moving forward.

"We have figures associated with all of them, the price tags," Gilfillan said. "Right now we're more focused on the structure of the pieces - finding ways to gauge feedback as to the appetite for individual pieces of the referendum before we move forward. 

"The Arts is where we have spent no money. Our desire is to continue to support the arts and renovate the auditoriums of the high school and middle school."

In other business, the finance committee has moved forward with the re-sodding of the high school baseball infield this summer so it will be ready for next season.

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