Thursday, April 20, 2006

Lakewood - School Board Elections UPDATE:

APP: Bob Levine and 2,354 people who think like him are the reasons the Board of Education budget was beaten by a nearly 5-to-1 margin. "It just seemed, once again, to be a very high number for a very bad school district," said Levine, a Fairways at Lake Ridge resident. "If they want our vote, they're going to have to show some good judgment." Levine said he has no confidence in the district and — judging from Lakewood's meager 8 percent voter turnout in Tuesday's election — he has a lot of company. It may not have helped that this year's $108 million budget came with no true tax impact. District officials say that because new tax rates have not been set after last year's revaluation, they cannot say how much the budget would affect taxpayers. Nothing's going to change," Levine said. This year, it might. The overwhelming defeat was surprising because the Vaad, an influential council of Orthodox Jewish leaders, asked the community to vote for the budget. But because of the Passover holiday, many families were out of town and others simply didn't vote. Now, as the hem-and-haw of what happens next begins, the Township Committee is one vote away from having the state education commissioner rule on the budget. "Let the state look at it and tell me," said Committeeman Robert W. Singer. "If they say it's fine, it's fine. If they say it's not, it's not." Singer, though, is in the minority. He has pushed for years to send defeated school budgets to the state for review, but he has been unable to muster the other two votes it would take to get a majority of the five-member committee. Under state law, when a school budget fails, the governing body can change the budget, adopt it as is or do nothing. The latter means the budget is sent to the commissioner's office so a tax levy can be set, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association. Singer and Committeeman Raymond G. Coles are already pushing for the state to get involved. "I think the commissioner (Lucille Davy) can have her staff look at it and certify that all these expenditures the board is saying are necessary truly are," Coles said. "I know, for myself, I'd have a better feeling knowing the state had looked at it." Mayor Meir Lichtenstein and Committeeman Menashe Miller were unavailable Wednesday because of Passover. That leaves Committeeman Charles Cunliffe as a likely swing vote on whether the budget goes to the state.......
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