First, in North Bergen, there was nothing shocking about the individuals who gained election. That's because all three people who gained another three-year term on the North Bergen Board of Education are long-time members.
Board President Elizabeth LaBode received the most votes, collecting 4,455, followed by civic leader Elaine Nicoliello, who received 4,354 votes, and Luis Diaz, who received 4,292 votes.
The challengers fell way behind, with gadfly Herbert Shaw collecting 300 votes, followed by William Koehler with 281 votes and Imran Hosein getting 177 votes.
All three incumbents were supported by the North Bergen Democratic Organization, headed by Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
While the incumbents enjoyed victory, the budget was soundly defeated, as were all three of the other ballot questions that would have resulted in property tax increases.
The overall $37.6 million budget was voted down by a final total of 4,160 to 329, with the other three questions - a $1.8 million referendum to keep the existing Early Childhood classrooms open (voted down 4,119 to 281), a $1.5 million referendum to hire more teachers (4,111 to 272) and a $2.5 million referendum to design preliminary plans for a new high school (turned down 4,047 to 252).
The new budget represented an increase of $4 million, which calls for an increase of nine percent raised by taxes or roughly $175 per home with an assessed value of $140,000.
The budget will now be handed over to the mayor and Board of Commissioners, who will recommend more cuts.
In Guttenberg In Guttenberg, incumbent Vasilios "Bill" Scoullos gained another three-year term, but incumbent John Habermann was voted out after three terms.
Gaining election to the Board in Guttenberg, along with Scoullos, were newcomers Ileana Caballero and Jaime Witcher.
Scoullos, a staunch opponent of Mayor David Delle Donna, collected the most votes with 333, followed by Caballero with 300 and Witcher with 294.
Habermann, who was supported by Delle Donna, received 268, followed by challengers Justin Rivera (261 votes) and Rocio C. Day (248).
The other incumbent, Julia Dunn, chose not to seek re-election.
The voters also voted down their school budget, which was a $7.3 million budget for the 2005-2006 year, calling for an estimated $180 per home increase. The budget was voted down 342 to 172.
The additional question, which pertained to an added $188,000 to hire a bi-lingual teacher for the fifth and sixth grades, to maintain the summer school program and the after-school athletic clubs, was also rejected by a 332 to 161 count.
Budget cuts Now, both towns will turn their respective budgets over to the municipal elected officials, who will see whether they can trim some of the projected spending and make recommendations for further cuts. Or they can parade the initial proposed budget back out for municipal approval.
However, there is another form of checks and balances here. The local school board can file an appeal with the State Commissioner of Education's office if the board firmly believes that the proposed cuts to the budget would prevent the district from providing an adequate education.
Many districts begin an appeal process in the days after the budget is rejected. North Bergen has not approved a school board budget in an election in more than 30 years, so this is an annual mechanism.
All budgets have to be sent to the State Department of Education for certification by May 19, a date by which Hudson County Board of Taxation officials will determine whether the proposed tax rates are fair and just.
Both towns should begin discussions on the school board budgets at the next scheduled municipal council or commission meetings.