Dear Editor,

I wrote a letter supporting the SDOC April Referendum for making capital improvements (performing arts, athletic fields, STEM classrooms, and elementary classrooms) back in February (Why We Should Build New Auditorium Space), and I wish to follow that letter up today, again as a 20-year Chatham resident.

In 2005 we all voted on a $27 million referendum that had three questions – one of which was a $23 million proposal. This 2015 proposal is one question with a $25 million price tag – ten years later - which makes use of state funds, leaves nothing on the table, and maximizes bang for the buck in a historically low interest rate environment.

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I encourage all reading this letter to make sure they vote on this referendum. I encourage all reading this letter to vote based on facts, as well. Visit the School District of the Chatham’s’ website, which lays out all the facts regarding these capital improvements: Watch Dr. LaSusa’s video on that site. Enjoy the transparency that the school board and administration have demonstrated since day one:

-          They have conducted many public meetings – on weekends and weeknights.

-          Meetings have been televised.

-          They have listened to many viewpoints, and held long public commentary sessions.

Vote how you wish, by all means. Just please don’t vote based on misinformation.

There is no lunchtime seating issue at the high school; ask Principal Groh. Also, the current middle school auditorium is not used just three times per year, just as Cougar Field is not only used on the days of home football games. Finally, the construction of a new middle school auditorium is not a luxury. It replaces 1958 facilities, and does it while creating classroom space for STEM, and consolidating office space that allows administrators to move out of the Township Municipal Building. Oh… and performing arts are an integral part of education, just as athletics and STEM are.

These past few weeks I have witnessed heated criticism of the Chatham School Board, and its decision to put forth many capital improvements as one question on the April ballot. I have listened as fellow citizens accused volunteer school board members of wrongdoing, manipulation, and deception. I have witnessed the school board being accused of not listening to the public - because they did not split up the referendum (I guess the public who has been vocal about it not being split does not count). I have witnessed some imply that Superintendent LaSusa makes too much money each year. I have witnessed the spreading of incomplete facts/misinformation, at best ignorantly and at worst deceitfully. Most troubling to me is how neighbors have flat-out turned nasty towards each other. This disappoints me; I have never witnessed this in my twenty years here. This disappoints me,  as we have a school administration and elected school board of the highest caliber and integrity, with a track record of results that is unassailable.

Think about this: our schools are tops in the state. As a result, our property values are above where they were in 2006 – the height of the housing bubble. As I write this letter, houses are coming on the market and selling instantly. I have family members in nearby towns who cannot make that claim. Our property values are not this robust by accident; credit needs to go to the decision- making of the school board and administration.

Again, we all owe it to ourselves to vote based on the facts. Please study the proposals. Please consider the alternatives – including the potential cost of smaller referendums in the future with higher financing costs. And please ignore the hyperbole of calling the capital improvement proposals in many aspects of education, where all students benefit, the Taj Mahal, or “the mother of all performing arts centers.” Take a look at what has been constructed in Bernards Township and Somerset Hills.

Our taxes in New Jersey are high, and frustratingly so. Of course many of us have the choice to move elsewhere, just as citizens have that choice in any state. Who knows – one day my wife and I may actually make that move. We can all blame the affordability of New Jersey on Whitman, Corzine, Christie, Trenton, the Clintons, the Obamas, or even the rain. But please -  reconsider expressing that general frustration by voting against the best interests of our children, and against the better judgment of a school system that has done everything right – with the results to prove it.

I know how I will vote, and I don’t begrudge any of you how you choose to vote. Let’s all just do so based on facts and not hyperbole, and let’s all vote with civility. Chatham has always been such a friendly and warm place to live, and we shouldn’t let that change now.

Sal Arnuk

Hall Road