Three Elizabeth school board members are seeking re-election boasting a proposed school budget that does not require any increase in local property taxes but two Linden politicians are hoping to be returned by voters to the Board of Education despite a hefty property tax increase.
Louis Scaldino and Bryan Russell have proposed as the latest in a unbroken string of school tax hikes, an extra $39.62 on top of the $400 increase for average Linden homeowners approved by the City Council.
The Roselle school board incumbents split into two factions heading into the April 27 election, but both groups want voters to approve tax hikes while members of a third slate are more circumspect about their fiduciary responsibilities.
Linden tax advocates Scaldino and Russell are being challenged by two mothers who have demonstrated a long interest in quality education and believe the city is wasting money on lawyers and other unnecessary costs.
Charlette Richardson and Carmen Southward point out that Scaldino and Russell hired without bidding a law firm that was paid $166,620 last year, while more than 100 employees whose jobs were eliminated included 66 teachers and 42 other staff members.
Seventy-six percent of Linden’s school budget comes out of the pockets of local taxpaying homeowners, compared with the local tax levy for Elizabeth, which represents just 12 percent of the total school budget.
Elizabeth citizens spent about $48.7 million of their property tax dollars on public education, while Linden residents are being asked to pay close to $80 million for schools and Roselle taxpayers contribute $26 million.
Schools will be closed in Roselle and Linden and open in Elizabeth during the week when voters will be heading to the polls for the first New Jersey election ever held on a Wednesday. Polls in Linden are open only from 4 to 9 p.m. in a gambit that Scaldino and Russell believe will improve their re-election chances, while voters in Roselle and Elizabeth are able to cast ballots starting at 2 p.m.
Seeking election to the Roselle board are Michelle Bey, Antigua Santos, Robin Randolph-Henderson, and Joann Blount — who object to the $700 a day hiring of former Linden schools superintendent Joseph E. Martino, who is collecting New Jersey’s highest pension payout of $149,368 per year, and other wasteful practices.
Blount is competing for the one-year unexpired term now held by Richard Villeda, who was appointed after former member Michael Boyd was arrested on charges of car burglary and removed from the school board.
Villeda and Erick Cedano are incumbents running with Donna Obe and Archange Antoine, who joined forces after a political schism with Lorraine Brooks-Body and Kerry Pogue-Napoleon, two supporters of Councilman Jamel Holley, a candidate for mayor who was at the center of a ballot fraud scandal in 2006.
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