CHS Construction Referendum

Monday, November 24th, 2014
The idea of a referendum is not new to the School District of the Chathams, but recent proposals have caught the ears of faculty and taxpayers alike. Our district’s last referendum dates back to 2005 and totaled at $27 million. This year, the Board of Education and Superintendent LaSusa have put forth a proposal that could amount to just under $28 million. The referendum will fund 6 additions/improvements: 1. Refurbish the High School Auditorium, 2. Convert the Current Middle School Auditorium into Instructional and Other Space, 3. Build a New Auditorium at the Middle School, 4. Upgrade the Facilities at Cougar Field, 5. Install New Fields behind Chatham High School, 6. Expand the Elementary Schools. A majority vote of all Chatham taxpayers is needed for the funding to pass. As students know, the changes are necessary and will improve the theatre, athletic, and educational programs throughout the district.

The timing for this proposition is another key factor that the Board of Education planned for. With large portions of the 1998 and 2005 referendums’ debt now paid off, the tax burden that will come with this $27.75 million proposal will be partially offset by no longer having to pay for those loans. Also, interest rates are very low and may be rising soon, making this a perfect time to borrow with the district’s AAA-credit rating.
The schools are in need of these projects. The newest school in the district (CHS) dates back 50 years, the oldest (SBS) 80. The High School auditorium has seats being held together by duct tape and lacks backstage space. It does not have the seating capacity it needs to ever hold a school-wide assembly or ceremony. Similarly, the Middle School auditorium is below standard and is also inadequate size; it is proposed to be renovated into STEM classrooms and offices for the Board of Education. This all leads into a large project, the construction of a new auditorium which is estimated to cost near $12.5 million. People involved in athletics will be relieved by the improvements to Cougar Field (bleachers and parking) and the possible turfing of multi-purpose athletic fields behind CHS. Finally, each elementary school is operating above the expected capacity levels, the proposed expansion to each school (2 classrooms for WAS and SBS and 4 for MAS) would ease the strains of limited space.

The specifics of the Referendum will be tweaked multiple times before the vote in April, 2015.