Dear Editor,

I have spent most of my 20 year career managing real estate and facilities for large educational institutions and large publicly held for profit firms.  Over that time, I have proposed, managed and delivered any number of capital and operational projects.  As I stated at a recent public meeting on this topic, there have been three questions that have always guided me on whether or not to undertake any such project: 1) Is the project central to the institution's or company's mission? 2) What is the cost of capital? 3) What is the cost of inaction? The same question apply when I examine the referendum proposed by the Board of Education and the superintendent.

The first two answers are rather straight forward, 1. Yes, safe and fit for purpose facilities are central to the mission of the school district, and 2. the cost of capital (3.5 percent interest rate) is historically low. The third question is a bit stickier and the one on which I wish to devote some time to here.

When I walk through the areas impacted by the referendum, I see things others may not so readily notice: asbestos tiles in disrepair, tripping hazards, burlap wall covering that is frayed, fields that are inappropriate for the climate we live in and thusly cannot be maintained to allow for play without injury or even available for use during the proper seasons, classrooms lacking the required facilities for kindergarten, STEM or robotics. These are all very real hazards or serious service gaps the superintendent and the board have rightly acknowledged; and with an astonishing level of transparency that is a hallmark of true leadership.

These issues are far too costly and thusly cannot be remedied through the use of operating expense, without seriously damaging the programatic delivery of which we are all so proud. In addition, funding capital projects through operating expenses is simply not appropriate. So inappropriate in fact that the district does not fund even the interest payments  for bond issues through the operating budget; a point that has been misrepresented of late.  

Furthermore, merely remediating the current facilities will not address the future needs for the education of our children. That will require new construction. The educational landscape has vastly altered in the years since the last referendum. We need real STEM and robotics labs, classroom space to allow for the growth in the district, adequate multi-use space that can be safely used by all students for assemblies, plays, set design and lighting, sound and video production, orchestra, band and chorus performances, awards ceremonies, as well as parent and public information sessions, and rental by outside groups.

In fewer words the board and the superintendent have put forth a plan which provides the remediation of several  unsafe conditions, repurposes out of date facilities no longer fit for their intended use, provides new STEM and robotics labs, makes the athletic fields fit for purpose and provides for the future needs of the community in terms of population growth. All of this is at a historically low cost of capital that will not negatively impact the programatic delivery that is rated number one in our state. Vote yes for the budget and the question 2 onApril 21.

Mike Feeman
233 Shunpike Road
Chatham Township