Township Committee members asked several pointed questions at Thursday's meeting, after WHRHS Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett and BA Timothy Stys presented the projects proposed in the Sept. 24 referendum. Credit: Warren Township
Members of the Warren Township Committee listened patiently to an explanation of the projects included in Watchung Hills Regional's Sept. 24 $12.5 million referendum, but pushed back on the $53 annual cost of the work for the average Warren property owner.
After his breakdown of the projects, Committeewoman Carolann Garafola pressed him on the projected tax impact of the work.
"And it's assumed that this will be on top of the additional increase you're allowed under the 2 percent (tax levy cap)?" Garafola asked after the presentation.
"This is in addition to any other tax that may be out there," Stys said. "I can't comment and tell you there's a tax increase next year or not—we haven't done the budget yet."
"When residents make a complaint to the township about their taxes, can we send them to you?" Garafola asked.
"Absolutely," Stys responded.
Garafola also objected to the "free ride" residents of Green Brook receive in the regional school scheme, since taxpayers there will only pay a proportionate share of the interest on bonds issued if the referendum passes, while the sending districts—Long Hill, Warren and Watchung—divvy up the full costs of the projects.
"What are you going to do? I mean, the roof—it's worn out, it has to be replaced," Deputy Mayor Gary DiNardo said. DiNardo said the committee members ask themselves the same kinds of questions whenever expenditures are debated, adding, "Don't take any offense—we do the same thing every year."
Earlier in the discussion, Jewett noted that the district will receive about $5 million in state aid, reducing the impact to taxpayers to $7.5 million.
"We were eligible for the maximum amount of aid because the state deemed every project of the seven projects to be health and safety necessities," she said.