The township council will definitely make cuts to the defeated school tax levy, Council President Brian DeLuca told Brick Patch. Meanwhile, Board of Education President Kim Terebush said she was “shocked” when the election results came in Wednesday showing voters had rejected the school tax levy referendum.
“It wasn't a mandate, but it was defeated,” DeLuca said of the school referendum. “The taxpayers are expecting us to make some type of cut.”
DeLuca said township officials have already been in touch with James Edwards, the district’s business administrator, but council members will wait until after the school board reorganizes May 5 before it begins formally reviewing the spending plan, which was narrowly rejected by voters. A second referendum asking voters to approve $8.6 million in above-cap spending on the municipal government side passed. The school tax levy, which was within cap, failed, meaning the township council will now review the figures and potentially make cuts, in accordance with state law.
“Whoever the new [school board] president is, I'm looking forward to sitting down with him or her,” said DeLuca.
Since candidates aligned with Terebush lost to candidates aligned with board members John Talty and Warren Wolf, it is unlikely Terebush will remain board president. A vote will be held to elect a president at the May 5 reorganization meeting.
For her part, Terebush said she was shocked and disappointed that voters did not support the proposed school tax levy, which would have translated to a tax increase of about $55 per year for the average Brick homeowner.
“We did our homework and we were able to come under the 2 percent cap,” said Terebush.
“It is shocking to me that we would vote for garbage pickup but not our children’s education,” she said, alluding to the fact that public garbage pickup would have been eliminated if the municipal referendum was defeated.
Terebush also said she “absolutely” believes the physical layout of the ballot was part of the reason the school referendum was defeated.
The school question was positioned on the top-right side of the ballot while the township referendum was positioned near the bottom-left. Speculation has run rampant since the votes were counted that some residents who may have intended to vote against the municipal budget may have mistakenly voted against the school budget since it was the first referendum to appear on the ballot, at about eye-level. Unofficial totals from the Ocean County Clerk show the school question received approximately 1,500 more votes than the highly controversial municipal question.
For DeLuca, who served as school board president before being elected to the township council, the review process he will follow will include a committee of council members as well as a citizens’ committee which will be charged with reviewing the budget and making suggestions.
“We'll have a lot of different eyes looking at it,” DeLuca said.