The overall school election turnout in Hudson County was only 7 percent, according to County Clerk Javier Inclan, a native of Guttenberg.
"The overall numbers went down this year," Inclan said. "In some towns, the reason why people turned out was contested elections. But the numbers were down countywide."
In local towns that had school board elections, North Bergen had the highest turnout, with 16.7 percent. Secaucus was second with a 16.6 percent turnout. Guttenberg's turnout was 13.6 percent.
Jersey City, with a highly contested election with 16 candidates running for three seats, managed to draw just 3.4 percent of its voting contingency to the polling booths.
In North Bergen, there were few surprises. Incumbents Maurena Luzzi and Julio Marenco easily gained re-election, along with newcomer Ruth Shaw.
All three were supported by the North Bergen Democratic Organization, headed by Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
Luzzi, the township director of cultural affairs, collected the most votes with 4,817, followed by Marenco (4,497) and Shaw (3,905). All three were elected to three-year terms on the Board of Education.
The trio of Sacco-supported candidates easily defeated independents Imran Hosein (1,055 votes), Herb Shaw (318) and William Koehler (286).
Herb Shaw, a long-time political candidate for several different offices, fell to defeat for perhaps the 30th time in his career.
"I've stopped counting," said Shaw, who is no relation to the victorious Ruth Shaw. "This is just another example of machine politics. People don't pay attention to these elections. They're only interested in taxes. You shouldn't be judged by the taxes, but what you do with the taxes that are collected. If it weren't for people like myself and Bill Koehler, we wouldn't have any opposition to Sacco in this town."
The proposed $81 million North Bergen school budget was voted down resoundingly - as expected, with 4,094 people voting against the budget and only 328 voting for it.
The budget now goes to the Board of Commissioners for further review over the next 30 days.
In Guttenberg, a referendum that would have called for the town to have appointed school board members instead of elected was voted down by a two-to-one margin. There were 365 voters who voted that the current elected system should remain in place and 193 who voted for a board appointed by the mayor and council.
"We spend $40,000 on a school board election every year," Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna said. "We have to pay for ballots, literature and election workers. I thought that the money could be better spent elsewhere, like buying books. I know there are some people who think we supported it because it was for more control, but it really was a money issue. But if the voters think it's important to vote, then I can live with that."
Delle Donna said that with the poor turnout, it turned out to cost about $65 per voter.
There were four other public questions: the $8.3 million 2006-07 budget, an $104,000 amendment to hire one bilingual teacher and one sixth grade teacher, a $50,000 amendment to purchase social studies textbooks, and a $67,000 amendment to finance the school's after-school programs.
They were all voted down as well.
"I felt like it was going to happen," Delle Donna said. "I feel bad for the children, because they're the ones who suffer. Look, they voted down the $50,000 for the textbooks. We could have used the $40,000 that we spent on the election for the books. It makes no sense to me, but we have to live with it."
Delle Donna was happy that the three candidates he supported won. They were incumbent vice-president Diana Velez (385 votes) and incumbents Rocio Day (376 votes) and Rebecca Vazquez (373). They defeated challengers Peggy Rackett (275 votes) and Jaime Witcher (262).
Delle Donna was asked why the turnouts for Board of Education elections are always so poor.
"People who don't have children in the school think like it's none of their business," Delle Donna said. "But the school budget is just as important financially as anything else. I've asked senior citizens, who normally vote all the time, why they don't go to vote at Board of Education elections and, they say because they don't have children in the schools."
The Guttenberg town council will also get its school budget to review over the next 30 days to see if any changes can be made.