Editorial for the week of Dec. 1

Voters should support new referendum

By: Vanessa Holt
   Two years ago, voters rejected the Chesterfield School District’s plan to build a new elementary school to house students as the township’s population swells in response to new development.
   Residents in Chesterfield will again have the opportunity on Dec. 13 to plan for the future and ensure that children will have adequate educational facilities, as the bond returns to the public for a vote — this time with a price tag that is $2 million higher.
   The $19.5 million bond referendum includes $3.5 million in state aid, meaning that the cost to taxpayers under the plan would be $15.9 million if it is approved this year. The state aid money will probably not be available again if the bond is rejected, as the state School Construction Corp. has nearly exhausted its funds.
   As predicted, the cost to taxpayers is higher ($450 annually on average, instead of $290) than it would have been if it had been approved two years ago and that price will climb steeper still if voters do not act now to acknowledge the need for expanded facilities in the district. The population of children in grades K-6 is expected to more than double in the next five years.
   As we stated two years ago, you can’t put off a project like this for very long — and already the district has had to buy two trailers to house some of its programs and the school population is greater than the building’s state-approved capacity. The houses that were merely plans filed in a clerk’s office two years ago, are now being built.
   District enrollment is projected to grow to as many as 750 students. With an additional 1,200 houses expected in the township, that might even be a conservative estimate. The current capacity of the school is 271 students, with 301 enrolled this school year, and it is already straining to keep up with the annual increase. The current sixth-grade class will have about 30 students in it, while the second-grade class has close to 50.
   Voting down the referendum will not make the houses disappear and will not make the need for education in this township any less important. If the school is forced to expand beyond its means, outgrowing its sewerage capacity, necessitating a shantytown of trailers clustering on the grounds outside the main school building, the cost to taxpayers — and to the education of the children — will be just as dire.
   We urge Chesterfield residents to act now, and prepare for the future. As with anything in life — fixing a leak, changing a tire, going to the dentist — taking preventive measures can save money and make the road ahead a little less bumpy. In this case, the consequences will be far greater than a flat tire or a broken filling if we wait to act — the education of the next generation of children is at stake, and that is something worth planning for.