CHATHAM, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey neighbors have been pitted against each other over an expensive school renovation proposal in Chatham.
As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, some said the project would just increase property taxes that are already too high. Residents are fighting it out as the deadline for a vote approaches.READ MORE: Broadway Vaccine Mandate: Audiences Must Be Vaccinated And Masked; Performers, Crew And Staff Required To Be Vaccinated
Signs on lawn in Chatham Township and the borough in New Jersey show the strong feelings in favor of and against the plan. The estimated cost is $24.8 million.
“That’s a lot of money,” said Cathy Cannon of Chatham.
But some think the plan might be worth it.
“I think anything to improve the schools in the town is a great thing,” said Tara Anderson of Chatham.
The fight has grown so heated that some residents even said their signs have been stolen.
The proposal is a referendum on the ballot in the area. It includes building a brand new performing arts center at the middle school – replacing a grassy oval.
The price tag for the performing arts center alone is $10.8 million.READ MORE: Big Changes At The Top For MTA, New York City Transit Leadership
“That $11 million could be used for different classrooms; for hiring other teachers,” said Libby Hilsenrath of Chatham.
There are also plans to renovate the high school auditorium, where bright orange seats now glare back at the stage. But a group has formed to stop it all.
Parents who support the referendum point to an antiquated auditorium with a small stage, minimal seating, no air conditioning, and a bad sound system.
“The two auditoriums in town are pretty old, and there’s no backstage facilities. There’s no facilities for doing things like lighting design,” said Ross Salinger of Chatham.
“Even if my daughter’s not into the arts, you know, I want her to be able to go to a school, and have great plays, and be able to enjoy it,” said Karen Bruzzo of Chatham.
District officials said the plan also calls for more classrooms, offices, and renovated fields — for a student population that is dramatically growing.
But opponents said they will fight until the vote.MORE NEWS: Biden Administration Says National Eviction Moratorium Will Expire Saturday
The referendum is the second question on the ballot, after the school budget. Residents were set to vote on Tuesday.