Voters in the majority of Middlesex and Union County school districts approved budgets in Tuesday’s annual school election.
School budgets passed in every Union County school district except Linden and Roselle. Middlesex County voters passed school budgets in Cranbury, Dunellen, Edison, Highland Park, Metuchen, Milltown, Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Plainsboro-West Windsor, South Amboy, South Plainfield, South River and Spotswood. Budgets were rejected in Carteret, East Brunswick, Helmetta, Jamesburg, Middlesex, Monroe, North Brunswick, Sayreville, South Brunswick and Woodbridge.
School budgets rejected by voters will be sent to the municipal governing bodies, which can recommend cuts. The school boards can then accept the cuts or appeal to the state commissioner of education.
Linden school officials blamed the budget’s failure on a tough economy. Although the school board’s budget didn’t call for a tax increase, voters still rejected it by a vote of 809-769.
“It’s a shame,” said school board President Bryan Russell. “I feel in this financial state, what the nation is going through, voters still couldn’t afford those numbers. We really believed it was going to pass.”
Edison voters rejected a $57.8 million bond referendum to build a new elementary school by a vote of 4,077 to 3,710. An $80 million referendum was rejected last year.
“I feel sorry for the taxpayers and those who have children in the school system, only because there is a genuine need for more space.” said acting Superintendent of Schools John DiMuzio. According to the school official, the Edison school system is short 2,000 to 3,000 seats according to state efficiency standards.
In Elizabeth, where school board races turn into major political battles, incumbents Rafael Fajardo, Francisco Gonzalez and Fernando Nazco held onto their seats. They defeated a slate of candidates backed by Mayor Chris Bollwage, who has fought with Fajardo for more than a decade.
Fajardo said, “I’m very grateful that we can continue doing the right thing for the children of the city of Elizabeth and reach our goal of, in the next three years, becoming one of the top districts in the state of New Jersey.”
Charlette Richardson failed to unseat Linden incumbents Russell, Louis Scaldino and Bryan Tomko. Rahway voters re-elected Deborah Bridges and chose former board member Peter Kowal and newcomer Edward Quinn over incumbent Bernard Robson. Clark incumbents Michael Bonaccorso, Carmen Brocato and Laura Caliguire ran unopposed.
Gene Maeroff, William Van Pelt and Aimee Szilagyi won re-election in an Edison race featuring eight candidates. Incumbent Raymond Koperwhats was not re-elected. Perth Amboy voters re-elected Ray Geneske, Kenneth Gonzalez and Austin Gumbs and Sayreville voters re-elected Phyllis Batko, Michael Macagnone and Pasquale Lembo. Woodbridge voters re-elected Brian Molnar and Diane C. Acquisto, but chose George Yuhasz over incumbent Brian J. Dziedzic.
Linda Singh failed in her bid to win a seat on Carteret’s school board. Voters instead chose Laura Waters, Gilbert Baez and Donna Kenney. Metuchen school board member Eileen Duffy lost her re-election bid. Voters chose Arthur Flaherty, Jacqueline Gibson and Dan Benderly. Although three spots were up for election in South Amboy, only two candidates appeared on the ballot: Janet Kern and Stanley Jankowski.
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