Chatham Residents Ask Questions at Milton Open Forum on Referendum

Chatham Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa answered questions at Milton about the $12 capital improvement referendum that the public will vote on Sept. 27 Credits: TAP Chatham
Peter Daquila, Chatham BOE administrator/secretary, answers a question from the public on the proposed six referendum questions Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham Township resident John Strelkoff came to Milton Avenue School to ask questions about the referendum questions that will be voted on during a special election on Sept. 27 Credits: TAP Chatham

CHATHAM, NJ - There were a lot of questions and answers on Wednesday night at Milton Avenue School about the six proposed capital improvement projects that will be voted on by the public on Sept. 27 in a special election.

For the most part, those in attendance at the open information forum presented by the Chatham BOE were satisfied with the details they heard from Chatham Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa and Peter Daquila, BOE administrator/secretary, on the proposed $12 million referendum.

"When people ask us about it, we'll be able to tell them," Meredith Eckert, vice president of the Milton P'TO, said. 

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Eckert and Milton PTO President Danielle McDavit listened to the details given on the fifth question listed on the six-question referendum - Milton Avenue School, where the plan is to add four classrooms at a cost of $2.4 million.

LaSusa explained that taxpayers surveyed had rejected the addition of eight classrooms when surveyed. Adding elementary school classrooms did not receive more than 50 percent approval from the 1,200 people who answered the survey on their preferences for capital improvement projects. But it is the one project that board members decided to put on the ballot without majority support. 

LsSusa noted that adding four classrooms at Milton was the most cost-efficient way to add elementary school classrooms.

Each of the six capital improvement projects will be on the ballot on Sept. 27 as separate questions. In total, it would cost taxpayers $12 million if all six were approved, which includes the $3.8 million in debt service that will be picked up by the state.

The $24 million referendum had been rejected by the public in a 2015 April vote. One of the main objections to that referendum was that the board put all the questions together as a yes or no. The current referendum has put each project up for a stand-alone vote.

The six projects include: 1-Renovation of CHS auditorium at $3.5 million. 2-Renovation of CMS auditorium at $3.8 million. 3-Addition of four STEM classrooms at CMS at $3.2 million. 4-Cougar Field upgrades $1.4 million. 5-The addition of four classrooms at Milton Avenue School $2.4 million. 6-Roof repairs at CHS, CMS and Lafayette $1.5 million.

"This is the first year I've come to a board meeting," Chatham Township resident John Strelkoff said. "It's a shame more people don't come to the meetings. My main issue is that they seem to be on such a tight schedule that we can't wait 42 days to have the election in November with the general election. If they're on such a tight schedule, it seems like a recipe for disaster."

The meeting was especially informative for Strelkoff since he has not been receiving any of the mailings sent out by the BOE on the referendum. Strelkoff noted that he lives in the 07935 zip code of Chatham in the Green Village section of the township.

SCHOOL DISTRICT NOTES: LaSusa announced a bit of news on Wednesday night, revealing that the record attendance in the district has risen by 11 students to 4,211 since the last BOE meeting on Aug. 29. This year's district attendance is 36 students higher than the record number of 4,175 set last year.

Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa answers question about what might be done first if all the questions on the referendum pass


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