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Warren School Board Mulls Election Move

Members say eliminating uncertainty of budget process would benefit district.

While several residents at Tuesday's Warren Township Board of Education meeting made a plea for the board to retain the annual school budget voting in April, most said moving the election to November makes too much sense to ignore.

"If you look historically at the budet vote, the majority of voters elibgible don't even vote—so they've already lost their opportunity to vote," board President Gregory Przybylski said. "I would submit to everyone that your opportunity to vote on the budget is before the budget comes up for a vote—that's coming to the meetings, talking about what's important to you, what's not important to you, in the formative process."

Most of the residents speaking at the meeting agreed that it made more sense to move the school elections to the fall, even though doing so eliminates the ability to vote on budgets falling within the state-set tax increase caps. That sentiment was contrary to what some board members said they heard in discussions with residents and the results of a poll on Warren Patch Monday.

Resident Andrea Frejomil urged the board not to change to date, noting the savings of $10,000 to $14,000 for the election and the likelihood of getting more voters weren't reason enough—or even accurate.

"In the election we just had in November...we only had 2,500 people vote," she noted, adding, "In April 2010 vote when we all had something to really come across to you, 2,900 people voted."

But most residents echoed the semtiments of Celeste Campos, who said she would "rather let my opportunity to vote go by the wayside" to elininate the uncertainty of the annual budget vote.

Another meme of the residents was many voters' lack of knowledge about the school budgets and schools when they cast ballots.

"They're just coming out to vote hoping that this will somehow impact their taxes," Sheila Marion said. "If you just go out and push a button 'yes' or 'no', you're really not affecting change."

Mountainview Road resident Patricia Zohn said she disliked the legislation, and is against moving the election, but she nonetheless urged the board to do so, saying if the school board doesn't make the change, the Township Committee would be likely to. "There's no action available to this board to prevent the move," she said. "I think pragmatically, the answer is you do it soon, so that you don't have it done to you."

Board members Tia Allocco, John De Bellis and Roberta Monahan agreed with Dr. Przybylski on moving the election, while Don Huber and James Sena said they weren't sure what the right choice was, although Huber said it seems a "no-brainer" and would be the right thing to do "at the end of the day." 

Sue Burman said she was concerned about the legislation's wording that eliminates budget votes falling at or below the tax increase cap, which is not specified by the legislation. Though currently at 2 percent, she noted if the state chose to lower it in the future, the board could be severely impacted by having to go for a November budget vote.

No decision was made at the meeting, but the board will need to make a decision by the end of February.

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