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Regional District First to Move School Election

New legislation allowed local school boards to change elections, school budget votes.

Despite concerns raised by board members that the floor vote did not allow for an appropriate public notice, the voted Monday by a 5-3 vote to move the school board election to November and eliminate a public vote on the district budget, provided it stays within a state-mandated tax levy increase cap.

Against the move were Oradell representatives Dorothea Durand and Michael Chakansky and River Edge member Patty Almberg. Roger Tashjian of Oradell was absent from the meeting.

"I think that having the election in November makes it more political, Durand said. "But what I'm most concerned about is that we'd be taking the vote away from the public. People have a right to say where we're putting resources."

Chakansky stated that without Tashjian present it would be better if the board waited before voting. He added that if the legislature did not want the public to vote on a school budget, it should have removed that option instead of leaving it up to the board of education.

The district budget would only go to voters if it exceeded the 2 percent tax levy cap. The last time the Regional district's budget was defeated was in 2008 at which point a budget committee comprised of representatives from both River Edge and Oradell recommended cuts. 

"When this was first approved I had a similar reaction to Michael about taking the vote away from residents," board vice-president Vito Acquafredda said. "But allowing the vote on teh budget gives more of an opportunity for people to vent their frustration, not on the budget itself, but on the process. Perhaps the greatest thing of shifting the vote is that we are giving our administrator's the ability to have a broader, longer planning process. Let's take advantage of the carrot dangling before our eyes."

Any school budget exceeding the 2 percent cap would still go to voters in November. The state Education Department would also still review the budgets following the Bergen County Executive Superintendent's review. 

"Aside from the cost savings, this would engage more people to vote for the school board members," board member Stephanie Hartman said. "I understand people's reservation of not having input on the budget, but they will stil have a voice on who is sitting in these seats."

River Dell’s vote came after Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Jan. 17 allowing school boards statewide to change elections and eliminate budget referendums. Proponents of the  have said it would boost voter turnout in sometimes-sleepy April school board elections statewide.

The change will impact the regional board's upcoming election, with three board members (two River Edge, one Oradell) now facing a November election. Board members elected in November would take office in January.

Burt goldstein January 24, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Oradell will never be in the Position to effect the vOte as long as we don't have equal representation on the board. The fact that we pay $2+ million more than riveredge to the school system should at least give us equal voting stays. Taxation without equal representation in inexcusable.burt goldstein
Anne Reynolds January 24, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Anne Reynolds I agree with Burt. Oradell should have equal representation on the RiverDell Board. This is going to get a lot worse between the two boroughs. River Edge is proposing three residential developments that will send hundreds more River Edge students to the regional district. As it is set up now Oradell pays a greater per pupil share for River Edge students. When those three River Edge residential developments are completed the situation will be magnified because Oradell will be paying even more in property taxes for those addiltional River Edge students. We are being disenfranchised if our vote on the school budget is taken away from us. The only way we'd get to vote on the budget is if it goes over the 2% cap. That's a joke because there are so many loopholes in that 2% cap.
Linda Lee February 10, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Being the first district to move the vote on school budgets/elections to November is nothing to be proud of. It takes our right to vote on the school budget away and removes any reason for the public to pay attention to what our money is being spent on.

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