The Cambridge School Board has scheduled a last-minute meeting tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 8, to discuss a possible upcoming performing arts center referendum. 

The board will meet at 6 p.m. at the school district office conference room, 403 Blue Jay Way. It is expected to vote next Monday, Jan. 13 on whether to hold a $9.9 million performing arts center referendum in April.

The board set tonight's meeting to weigh the potential referendum at a working session. No formal action will be taken, an agenda said.

The school board is considering adding a 498-seat auditorium on the north side of Cambridge High School, between the north wall and the soccer field, at a cost of $9.9 million.

The deadline to set a referendum for the April 7 spring election is Jan. 28. The School Board will vote on the possible referendum at its Jan. 13 meeting at 6 p.m. in the CHS library, 403 Blue Jay Way.

The arts center is proposed to include a stage, lobby, control and light room, piano closet, bathrooms, dressing rooms, storage space and a scene dock. Initial designs also add a parking lot in front of the arts center, behind existing CHS greenhouse and maintenance buildings. The inclusion of an orchestra pit in a possible arts center is still undecided.

The facility would be angled slightly away from the building, facing Simonson Street, with a triangle-shaped courtyard between the school and the arts center.

If a referendum goes forward, the district might add a second question to the ballot to cover operational costs with tax dollars, estimated between $30,000 and $40,000 per year.

In that case, property owners would pay $76 per $100,000 of property value for construction, and $1.43 per $100,000 for operations, if the referendum passes. It would run for 21 years.

After a community survey this fall showed 49 percent of residents would not vote for a referendum at $14.4 million, the district scaled back the project’s scope to under $10 million.

A task force of community members began meeting in August to study a possible arts center. The group developed initial facility designs, voted on a location and gave a recommendation to the School Board Dec. 16.

“Now it is time for the board to do our work,” Board President Tracy Smithback-Travis said Dec. 16.

After hearing from the task force Dec. 16, the School Board had no discussion and took no action on the proposal.

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