Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education member Peter Fallon announced that he has withdrawn his name from November's ballot and will not be a candidate for re-election to the school board.
With Fallon dropping from the race to retain his seat on the board in November, voters will decide whether current Warren Township Board of Education President Gregory Przybylski or Diane Belcuore will step in.
"My decision to leave at this time was made easier by the decision of Dr. Greg Przybylski to run for the high school board," Fallon said. "Greg has demonstrated his commitment to both financial oversight and improving our school during his two terms on the Warren Township (K - 8) Board of Education."
Fallon said he feels he's accomplished what he'd hoped to when he first ran for a seat on the Warren Township Board of Education, where he served from 2000 through 2006. He was then elected to two terms on the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education, where he has served since 2006. His current term expires Dec. 31.
Fallon noted several accomplishments he was most proud of during his tenure, including serving on the finance committee and as chairman of the negotiations committee for the township school board as the district launched a full-day kindergarten and completed several building projects.
But his primary focus has always been cost control, including obtaining cost containment in health insurance costs, with increased teacher contributions and limits on benefits for the K-8 District, while serving on the township board's negotiations committee. He also led efforts to have the board submit budgets to the voters which were well under the caps then established by the state.
Fallon stepped down from the township board and was elected to the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board in 2006, right after passage of a referendum authorizing an extra $3 million bond issue because the nearly $40 million high school renovation project could not be completed for the amount approved by the voters.
Fallon was part of the new board at the high school which focused on improving financial controls and oversight. He served on the board’s finance committee and headed its negotiations committee until this past year. He led the 2007 negotiations with both the teachers and the administrators, which resulted in the elimination of the board paying for the most expensive form of health insurance—traditional coverage—in favor of less expensive forms of health insurance.
"Our school boards are both more responsive to the people in town now," Fallon said. "I am proud of what has happened in all of our schools, and especially the high school during my tenure on the boards. Warren is a desirable place to live and our property values are relatively high due—I believe—in large part to the excellent reputations of our schools. I also worked hard and helped slow the rate of increases in property taxes when voters had to vote on our budgets."
"I am honored to have been elected by the people of Warren Township to four terms on the local boards of education," he said. "In that time I have successfully pushed both of our local boards of education to limit tax increases. At the same time our schools have improved. Through costs savings and better financial management we have been able to offer more programs in the high school, and the programs which we offer are more challenging to our students.
"Having served over 12 years on our local boards of election, it is time for me to step aside and let someone else take my place," he added.
Looking head, Fallon said he would like to serve on township boards after he leaves the WHRHS board, and sees some difficult years ahead for school districts. Fallon expects school districts an municipalities to face increased pressure to eliminate positions with the current 2 percent tax cap in place.
"I do not believe that there is any way to get around the need that all districts—and all municipal governments—will have to eventually cut staff," he said. "As long as health insurance costs continue to increase at rates far above the 2 percent annual tax levy increase, every school board and municipality must eventually reach the point where it can not wring out costs savings from any other place in the budget and the staff will have to cut to be able to pay the ever increasing health insurance costs."