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Referendum Defeat Likely to Lead to Changes in Galloway Schools' Budget

Roofs and fire alarm systems at three schools and the parking lot at Arthur Rann must now be paid for without help from taxpayers. The public hearing on the budget is next Monday.

The Galloway Township Board of Education will most likely have three options to choose from when it convenes next Monday night, March 26, for the public hearing on its fiscal budget, followed by its final vote.

One option will be to keep the budget as it was on Feb. 27: a $56,123,664 budget with no tax levy increase.

Extending the budget to meet the 2-percent cap and reducing the budget below its current flat rate are the other two options.

The need for three options is a result of last Tuesday’s referendum , meaning the school district still needs to find a way to replace three of the schools’ roofs, three of the schools’ fire alarms and improve the parking lot at without taxpayer help.

For the second time in three months, the taxpayers defeated the school district’s $6.9 million proposal, this time by 194 votes, 1,314-1,120. A combined discussion on the referendum and the budget was held at the Board of Education’s meeting on Monday night, March 19 at the

“We need to come up with the money to budget for the roofs, one per year for the next three or four years, and then prioritize the other projects to minimize the tax impact,” board member Suzette Cordero said.

“We need to budget as much as we can, and if we budget for two years, that should be enough for one roof,” board member Bob Iannacone said.

Board member Rosemary Hollway wants to see the district save about $1 million a year.

“I don’t think the roofs will hold up,” Hollway said.

Board member Beverly Evensen doesn’t want to raise the tax levy a single cent.

“People can’t support the budget when they have to pay for higher township taxes and a high school referendum that partially passed,” Evensen said.

Board member Rich Dase wanted to make it clear that as a public school district, Galloway can’t accept donations from the public, in response to a letter to the editor that appeared on Monday in The Press of Atlantic City in which the writer suggested doing just that.

The Board of Education deems the roofs the most important issue to tackle immediately because the fire alarms are still fully functioning. Roof replacement is needed at , and elementary schools, while fire alarms will need to be replaced at Smithville, Roland Rogers and .

The school district felt that if the referendum passed, the district would be able to secure low bids to complete all the necessary work in a reasonable amount of time, due to the current economic state. However, with the defeat of the referendum, the district says the process to make all the improvements will take a much longer period of time no matter which option is selected.

The amount of time it will take is unclear, the school district says.

Because the referendum was defeated by nearly 200 votes the second time around, going out for a third referendum wasn’t a consideration.

The school district doesn’t want to dip below the proposed budget because it would then have to make cuts in personnel, programs or curriculum it already allowed for in the budget.

However, board members couldn’t come to an agreement on what to do because they didn’t have enough information available to them to make an informed decision.

“The time frame in which it was introduced makes it hard for board members, not that it could’ve been helped,” said Evensen, who also wanted to clarify that she didn’t want to make cuts to personnel.

The budget must be voted on next week to have it submitted to the county by the deadline.

“Next week, we have to have it in the form of a budget, not a bunch of ideas,” Board of Education Vice President George Schwenger said.

“Next week, we have to give a public presentation on the budget,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Annette Giaquinto said. “It’s possible to make changes at that meeting, but that makes it more difficult for myself and (Business Administrator Tim Kelley).”

Three presentations will be prepared for board members. Rather than hold a special meeting it would have to advertise for, Giaquinto intends to send the three proposals to each board member and discuss the options with them individually over the course of the week.

A group discussion would then take place next Monday.

Shawn Garrison March 20, 2012 at 12:18 PM
People cant support a budget when the township taxes are going up! Get real! People can't support it because 60% of our property taxes go to the schools. Where did all the extra money Trenton sent you go? I pay 6k a year in taxes only about 1k go to the township services ( the services I use). If the roofs won't make it another year then they should've been budgeted for years ago.
Diogenes March 20, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Shawn: Trenton doesn't send extra money. If they did, the building repairs would be taken care of. School diistricts can't "save up" for such large projects; when districts try this, the state reduces your state aid, and the district loses what it saved. This happened to Galloway several years ago when the district's aid was reduced by about $2 million. Most local property taxes go to the schools because they are usually the largest government entity in a community, and they have no other source of revenue such as permits, fees, etc that local governments do. They are also the only entity that must seek voter approval for tax revenues raised. It is important for folks to become accurately informed as to the budget process and state regulations so that their vote, whether yes or no, will be meaningful.

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