SECAUCUS – The Secaucus school budget will undergo scrutiny by the mayor and Town Council now that it has been declared officially voted down.
The budget officially lost by two votes, according to Michael Harper, Hudson County Board of Elections clerk.
After Board of Election officials reviewed the votes cast on April 17 with school administrator Ron Smith and board trustees Salvatore Manente and Jack McStowe Tuesday morning they all agreed on the outcome, according to Harper.
On April 17 the first election returns indicated that the budget had passed. But when absentee ballots and provisional votes were included the budget failed by two votes, with 944 voting yes to 942 voting no, according to the town clerk.
There were only three provisional votes: 1 yes, 1 no, and 1 that was cast for candidates but did not vote on the budget. There was no request for an official recount.
Harper said that if there had been a recount they would have ruled one provisional vote in favor, but even then the budget still would have lost.
“Everybody is disappointed,” said Manente. He said that he felt the rejection of the budget could have been a result of the negative ad campaign that Mayor Michael Gonelli waged against school board candidate and incumbent Thomas Troyer.
A budget rejected by the voters goes to the mayor and Town Council for review. They have until May 21 to make a decision on whether to leave the school board budget intact or make cuts.
“We are just going to take a good hard look at it,” said Gonnelli. He said that the administration will go line item by line item to see if there is any duplication of services or areas for trimming. He predicted the outcome won’t resemble the $1.1 million in cuts that were made last year after the budget failed by a majority vote.
“We are going to ask a lot of questions, and ask for a lot of information,” said Gonnelli. “We will see if there is any money that can be saved without affecting the curriculum, children, and the programs.”
“No matter where they cut something is going to suffer,” said Manente. Manente said that the current budget is down to the “bare bones” and that there is not much room to trim and that he hopes the mayor and Town Council will leave it intact.
The total operating budget proposed for the 2012-2013 school year was almost $35 million. The tax levy portion represents $31.6 million, an increase of $620,320, which is within the state’s two percent mandatory cap. The budget imposes an average increase of $74 per household in school taxes. – Adriana Rambay Fernandez