CHATHAM–School district voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed $13.8 million schools upgrade and expansion project Tuesday, November 19. The final vote was 658 No votes versus 481 Yes.
The proposal was drawn up to accommodate the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students who are scheduled to move to the main campus in 2015, when the board of education plans to close the Middle School on Woodbridge Avenue.
Chatham Central School District Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo, contacted after the vote, described the outcome as “a community decision.”
She said that the next step would be for the board and the administration to review the exit poll data collected on forms voters could fill out as they left the voting booths at the Mary E. Dardess Elementary School.
Asked whether the board would close the Middle School now that voters had rejected the upgrade and expansion plan at the other two school buildings, Ms. Nuciforo said, “That’s still the case.”
The district has maintained all along that closing the Middle School was necessary as the result of continuing declines in enrollment.
The margin of defeat–nearly 58% of voters opposed the proposition–came despite assurances by the board and administration that the project would not raise property taxes because of state aid and the savings from closing the Middle School.
Opponents argued that the district should continue to operate Middle School for its original purpose rather than attempt to find new uses for the building. They also said that the bond proposal and the closing of the school would place significant financial drains on the community.