As a single man residing in the Borough since 1995, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve received a mailing from the School District of the Chathams (SDOC). I did not and do not have children in the school system; but, I am one of many who pays the tax bill for our outstanding schools. I want to feel as if my voice makes a difference.
At the League of Women Voters (LWV) debate, a question was raised regarding how better to involve the community. The incumbent candidate stated the Board has had numerous forums for the public. That is true. What is not quite true is that the public’s input mattered. For example, when the Board wanted to build a new Performing Arts Center, they combined the project with five other initiatives. This made the referendum similar to a mortgage-backed security- you didn’t know what you had in the box until you opened it. Despite the public clamoring for the referendum to be split into its six component parts, the Board said it “couldn’t be done.” Residents favored four out of the six items making up the referendum question. Voters did not support the PAC or the construction of an Administration Building. The public tried to compromise with the BOE by requesting the six initiatives be packaged into three referendum questions. The Board refused. The end result was a record turnout at the polls and the one question referendum went down in flames by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent; a sound rejection of the Board’s ploy.
Despite voters making their preference known with a solid “no” vote, the Board is pushing ahead with construction of a $2.1 Million Administration Building. This thwarts the will of the voters.m The new building will house both the administration and Special Services. The BOE, despite having a facilities manager, allowed the Special Services building to, literally, be structurally compromised by termites. This expenditure is being made despite the present leased space being sufficient to house both the administration AND Special Services. Let’s hope the new Administration Building isn’t built of wood.
To make this more egregious, the Board is using $500,000 in surplus toward the cost of the new building; and, today we learn that the State of New Jersey has given the SDOC another $168,000 in school aid-- -that will go, not toward education, but for the Administration Building! The extra $168,000 plus the $500,000 could have been used as a “rainy day” fund, for educational purposes, for any budget shortfalls at the next budget cycle, or given back to the taxpayer.
The incumbent candidate also told the assembled at the debate that the SDOC has a long-range plan. At budget presentations before the Borough Council, I asked for a copy of that plan. I have never seen the document because it doesn’t exist. That is not to suggest long-range planning discussions don’t take place; but, if you don’t put things down on paper, it’s hard to figure out if you’re on target.
I and many other seniors want to have our voices heard. We are absolutely in favor of first-rate education because it enhances our property values and provides the region with a talent pool second to none. We want to remain in Chatham and to do that we need change.
At the debate, one candidate stood out for the Borough. That candidate is Mike Ryan. He offers the needed change and will bring a fresh perspective to the Board. Mike Ryan will be my voice. Mike Ryan will be a Board Member who will ensure the three tenets of good government are practiced: inclusion, accountability, and transparency. Mike proposes to have committees made up of each voting interest to assist the BOE in its decision-making process. This is similar to how both Borough and Township government operate. Mike also proposes lowering health care and other insurance costs by having a risk manager involved in the process. Mike is also proposing referendums on school budgets. School costs drive 63 percent of our tax dollar, for that reason alone, we deserve a voice as to how our money is spent.
Inclusion, accountability, and transparency. That’s why I’m voting for Mike Ryan for BOE on Election Day. I urge you to vote for Mike Ryan.
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