Four Seasons retirement community residents John and Amy DeFilippis went into Thursday afternoon’s town hall style meeting with the same opinion on the scheduled for next Tuesday, March 13, but at least one of them may have changed their mind after listening to what representatives had to say.
“I’m going to have to think about it,” Amy DeFilipis said. “When I came in, it was a definite no. Now, it’s a maybe. I’m going to have to go home and digest everything and see how I feel.”
“They didn’t change my mind,” John DeFilipis said. “Our taxes are the highest in the nation, and now they want to make them even higher.”
John DeFilipis stated he felt the district wasn’t doing enough at the state level.
“They need to push the legislators,” he said. “They have to come up with something. Even if it’s just a little bit, or if it’s half, that would be better, but it seems like they didn’t even apply.”
Business Administrator Tim Kelley maintains that no grants are currently being offered by the School Development Authority. The last one he was able to get was when he was the Business Administrator in the Bridgeton School District, for fire alarm upgrades in both Bridgeton and Downe Township. That was between two and three years ago.
“They’re not issuing new grants right now,” Kelley said, adding the state was using the grants to build new schools in Abbot Districts. “It’s not an open period for grants right now. There was one a few years ago.”
John DeFilipis said he would consider voting in favor of the referendum if the district was able to procure state aid.
Tuesday’s vote is on a $6.9 million plan to replace the roofs at , and elementary schools, fire alarms at Smithville, Roland Rogers and , and to improve the drainage system and parking lot at Arthur Rann.
Kelley and Galloway Superintendent of Schools Annette Giaquinto held the town hall style meeting at the on Thursday afternoon, March 8. Residents from Four Seasons turned out to voice their concerns.
“We just voted on this in December,” John Filipis said. “Many of the residents went down to Florida and aren’t back yet. They feel like the district is trying to sneak it in.”
“Some of us feel like the referendum is so close to December, they’re just going to vote no,” Amy DeFilipis said. “They don’t care why.”
There are only four times a year a school district can go out for a referendum—January, March, April and December. The referendum in December was defeated by eight votes, prompting the district to go back out to vote. They’re stressing these are safety issues, and emphasize that the longer the district goes without making repairs, the more the projects will cost in the long run.
The question was raised of state aid, after it was announced last week that the district will get $900,000.
Kelley explained the district was $500,000 in debt to begin with, and $300,000 is allocated for charter schools, leaving the district with $100,000 left over.
The issue of the Capital Investment Fund was also raised, and the school district said it was saving the money in that fund for emergency situations.
Although the turnout wasn’t what the district was hoping for, it did appreciate the questions put forth, particularly by Amy DeFilipis.
“They were very informed, logical, excellent questions,” Kelley said.
Amy DeFilipis doesn’t think seniors should have to pay at all.
“The community we live in is all seniors,” she said. “We’ve been taxed and taxed and we can’t take it anymore. … Our parents are living longer and we have to take care of them.”
“My mom is a senior citizen and she lives with me,” said Al Casanova, a real estate agent for Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Shore. “We can barely make ends meet. With all the injustices currently going on in Galloway, lawsuits pending that we’re going to have to pay for and have no choice, this referendum gives us a chance to say yes or no.”
That’s what the Town Hall meeting, Superintendent’s Advisory Board and speeches at school and family events are aimed at. The district wants informed voters coming to the polls on Tuesday, March 13.
“We have volunteers who will be at ShopRite this weekend. We had an Advisory Team meeting this week where volunteers took home posters and they will display them in other places,” Giaquinto said. “We have gone out of our way to do more to inform the voters. … We want educated voters to come out on March 13.”