NJ Voters Reject 59 Percent Of School Budgets


christie4After months of heated debate and angry protests, New Jersey residents woke up this morning to see that a majority of the proposed school budgets were defeated last night.

In one of those towns – Teaneck – several hundred students held a protest on the high school track.

The New Jersey school budget vote will likely be remembered for Governor Chris Christie’s deep involvement in the debate, and residents’ reaction to it.

Parents who spoke to CBS 2 say they believe some of their neighbors entered the voting booth without the information needed to cast an informed vote.

“It’s not a good thing, because there’s a lot of programs now [that will] probably be cut,” one Carlstadt resident said.

That’s because it’s now up to local governments to either revise or accept those rejected budgets. Voters ultimately rejected a little more than half – 59 percent – of the budget proposals for consideration.

One of those budgets was in Teaneck, where high school students protested Wednesdays morning and refused to enter the building.

“I wanted to make sure that everyone sees that we’re serious about this,” Teaneck junior Gerard Rice said. “I mean, we’re not going to let this happen.”

The governor cut more than $800 million in state educational aid and framed the budget issue around hard financial times. He also urged residents to knock down any local budget that did not come with an agreement from teachers to freeze their pay.

“I think it’s good that it didn’t pass,” Carlstadt resident Denise Oehmlmann said. “I don’t want the children to be hurt.”

But in Hackensack, the budget passed by almost a 2-to-1 margin. Schools Superintendent Edward Kliszus says the vote was “a great victory,” and that it makes a bold statement.

“I believe that parents in Hackensack displaced themselves from the state politics and focused on their children,” Dr. Kliszus said.

What happened in Hackensack was not a fluke, though. Though most NJ school budgets were rejected, 55 of Bergen County’s 74 proposals passed.

In the coming weeks, local governments across the Garden State will either recommend changes to the rejected budgets, or ignore voters and decide to accept them as is.

In Teaneck, which proposed a 10 percent property-tax increase, voters defeated the budget 4,790- 3,618. The plan would have raised the local levy by $474 on the average home assessed at $466,100. The unofficial vote count doesn’t include absentee ballots.

┬áThe unofficial results show an unprecedented voter turnout in Teaneck’s Board of Ed Election with nearly 33% of the eligible voters voting on the budget. Turnout was clearly considerably higher as evidenced by districts such as 13, 15 and 16 where individual candidates received more votes than the budget.

As expected the budget was defeated, but not by the percentages that some predicted. With a slate of candidates vigorously campaigning against the budget and with the NJ governor actively campaigning to have voters defeat budgets statewide, there were predictions of 3 to 1 and 4 to 1 defeats. The margin of defeat was only 14% despite the proposed budget’s 10.2% tax increase.

{WCBS-TV/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}