Two long-term members of the board, Julio Marenco and Maurena Luzzi, are seeking re-election and are running with the support of Mayor Nicholas Sacco. They will be joined on the ticket by newcomer Ruth Shaw.
Opposing them will be independent Imran Hosein, who is running for the first time. Also running alone is Herb Shaw (no relation), who has run for election in many local races. A third independent is William Koehler, who is running for the board for the 13th time. Koehler has seven children who are home-schooled.
Stuart Feldman, the other incumbent on the board, has decided not to run for re-election, citing personal and health reasons.
The voters will also have the chance to approve or reject a $81.18 million school budget for the next fiscal year, which will raise the tax levy by more than $4 million.
The candidates Luzzi is seeking her seventh 3-year term, and Marenco has been on the Board for the last 15 years.
"I just love kids and I love to be around them," said Luzzi, who also serves as the township's director of cultural affairs and runs the town's resident theater company, the North Bergen Players. "I had four of my own children and I have five grandchildren. My late husband [Vincent] was a music teacher for 31 years in the district and I used to volunteer for the PTA in the school where he taught [Horace Mann School], so I've always worked with kids and they were always my interest."
Luzzi encouraged the citizens of North Bergen to vote.
"If you don't come out and vote, you're not helping the future and the kids in the schools today represent our future," Luzzi said. "They are our future leaders. This is an election that should be taken seriously. If they don't vote, they're missing something."
Unfortunately, North Bergen Board of Education elections have drawn less than a 20 percent turnout in the last decade.
Opposition Incumbents Luzzi and Marenco are opposed by two very familiar names in terms of local elections.
Herb Shaw has run for election in every race imaginable over the last 30 years, seeking office on the local, county, state and even federal level.
The 75-year-old Shaw, a retired engineer for the Newark Board of Education, was nearly killed in a house fire a little over a year ago. Shaw and his wife were critically injured in the November, 2004 blaze, but Shaw has recovered enough to run again.
Another familiar independent candidate is William Koehler, who is running for a seat on the Board of Education for the 13th time, albeit unsuccessfully each time.
"I certainly believe I could do a better job than those who are already on the board," said Koehler, a machine shop owner in North Bergen and the father of seven children. "People encourage me to run every time, because I voice my opposition to the status quo and I'm not afraid to do so. I'm like a marathon racer. There are 20,000 who run in the New York Marathon and there's only one winner. So I guess the others shouldn't bother running, right? Of course not. Having opposition provides good incentive for the people who hold office."
But Koehler is realistic about his chances.
"I realize the enormity of the political machine that exists in North Bergen, and for someone to make an all-out effort to topple that machine is really hard," said Koehler.
Koehler's eldest son just graduated from the University of Minnesota and another son just enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
"I'm just swimming upstream," he said, "trying to make my voice heard. I just want people to realize that there are options out there."
Koehler said that he is bothered the most by the enormous administrative salaries that are dispensed within the Board of Education.
"I don't think anyone would begrudge them getting the salaries, if, as taxpayers, we felt we were getting our money's worth," Koehler said. "In the manufacturing world, if a businessman doesn't like the product, he moves on and tries another."
Koehler said that he encourages others to seek office.
However, maybe the proposed tax increase might draw more voters to the polls.
Tax increase The voters will also see a budget that will reflect a tax increase, one that calls for an increase of approximately $185 per average home assessed at $140,000.
The proposed $81,177,000 budget for the 2006-07 fiscal year represents an increase of $4 million over a year ago, with the total raised by taxes scheduled to be $39,770,000, up from $35,459,000.
Board of Education officials said that a majority of the $4 million increase is directed towards increases in salaries and health benefits. More than $1.3 million of the budget increase is itemized for benefits alone.
North Bergen voters have not approved a budget in the voting booths since 1982, so it's highly unlikely that the voters will approve one that calls for such a dramatic tax hike.
Once the budget is voted down by the public, it is then up to the North Bergen Board of Commissioners to go over the budget with a fine-toothed comb and present one that would be more fiscally pleasing to the taxpayers. But the bottom line is this: There will be a tax hike in the upcoming October bills, one way or another.