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School Officials 'Disappointed' By Budget Vote

School officials react to the outcome of the April 27 vote

Manchester school officials on Thursday expressed disappointment with the failure of the district's 2011-12 budget, which was voted down by a 6-percent margin on April 27.

Tallies from the Ocean County clerk's office show that the budget was voted down by 241 votes. According to county data, 1,896 residents, or 47 percent, voted in favor of adopting the budget, while 2,137 residents, or 53 percent, voted against it.

Superintendent of Schools David Trethaway said that a low turnout — about 12 percent of registered Manchester voters went to the polls — and a large senior citizen "no" vote led to the budget's defeat.

"I was obviously extremely disappointed. First of all in the number of people who voted," he said. "It's always been difficult."

County records show that in 2010, 6,768 residents cast a ballot for the budget, which was defeated. This year's election saw 4,033 residents participate in the budget question.

"Even though we tried to reach out in as many ways as we could and try to explain how critical this budget was, we just couldn't get the numbers out," Trethaway said. 

Also factored into the budget defeat is Manchester's large senior population, many of whom say fixed incomes make any tax increase difficult to sustain. The budget put forth by the school district called for a tax increase of $54 per year based on the average Manchester assessed home value of $194,100.

Polling data shows that Manchester has 39 districts, 30 of which are located in senior communities. Of those 30 senior communities, two voted in favor of passing the budget, while the rest voted against it.

This "no" vote, Trethaway said, is "always difficult to overcome."

An analysis of the polling data from Manchester's senior districts, including Renaissance and the Crestwood and Leisure villages, shows that a total of 2,106 ballots were cast in these communities, with 74 percent voting against the budget and 26 percent voting in favor of its passage.

Voters in the nine districts outside of senior communities, including Pine Lake Park and Holly Oaks, cast 1,607 votes. Seventy-four percent of these voters approved of the budget, while 26 percent were against it.

Donald Webster Jr., a board of education member who serves as finance chairman, said in a statement that it was "not surprising" that senior communities did not support the budget.

"This is has been the norm for Manchester in the 35-plus years that I have lived here," he wrote. "Unfortunately, to save a few dollars, they are seriously jeopardizing programs that are critical for our students to succeed in college and in the workplace."

The next step in the budget adoption process is for school and township officials to meet and negotiate what further cuts can be made. Trethaway said that potential cuts may include reductions of class trips, middle school sports, advanced placement courses and personnel.

"After last year's cuts, it's very tight at this point," he said. The district made $1.9 million in cuts last year, Trethaway said, so any further cuts are "going to be critical."

"We're in a critical time now, so we'll have to see how it develops," he said. "Hopefully, we won't lose those opportunities, but it's a distinct possibility."

In his statement, Webster said that the district's student resources are "beginning to lag behind" its peers "in most other comparable Ocean County school districts."

"The next few weeks will be critical in determining the quality of education that our students will have," he wrote.

Officials have until May 19 to settle on the tax levy, Trethaway said. The board of education will hold a reorganization meeting on May 4 to make its appointments and will hold its regular meeting on May 11.

Trethaway said that he hopes to schedule another public meeting with township officials to discuss further cuts.

Bryan April 28, 2011 at 10:31 PM
Makes me laugh that the "fixed income" always comes into play when it's taxes & medical but not when they jam every resturant everyday ! They spend more $ eating out than your average family can and when we do we have to wait an hour for a table cause a fixed income is filling up the place
ProudMomma April 29, 2011 at 12:40 AM
I want this town to realize that all must live on a budget. But let's all come to agreement that raising taxes is exactly what caused the American Revolution. Today, this is over extracurricular activities and administrators lining their pockets. We had enough with taxing our tea. What else could be said.
pat johnson April 29, 2011 at 12:47 PM
I'm tired of seniors being bashed. Yes we live on a fixed income, yes we may go to AC, eat in resturants, the less expensive ones, because that's what we can afford, or go on trips. Yes we some of us have savings so we can afford these things in our golden years. I grew up in a home where my father went to work and my mom stayed home, they didn't have much but we had a home. We didn't get the latest gadget, toy or bicycle, but we had a loving home. Yes my sister and I shared a bedroom and my brothers did the same. It wasn't important to have my own space because bedrooms were made for sleeping. Family activies took place in the living room or perhaps doing a puzzle on the dining room table. Homework was just that! Our dedicated teachers in a class of 30 plus students would give us the tools to do our lessons, spend time with those who needed a little extra help by walking around the classroom and constantly checking that we understood what was expected of us. When it came time for homework one or both of our parents would sit down with us, encourage and praise us, and help us if we needed it. Most families were not two income families, we lived within our means. We were not overscheduled into "oustide activies" although we did have some. Maybe we complain about the cost of living, of course you know we haven't had an increase is social security for the last two years, maybe all raises should be tied to that. A very happy senior
Trish April 29, 2011 at 02:24 PM
There will most likely be no social security for me when I retire, I'd like the opportunity to vote on my contribution to that fund. Why should I contribute if I won't directly benefit from it. That is the same misguided logic that brings people to vote down these budgets year after year, they don't feel the impact so they don't care. They don't have a child actively in the school system so they don't see the direct effects. When did everyone stop caring about the community? Is everyone just too busy having a tea party?
Billabong April 29, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Pat, Although it may have happened years ago, your experience sounds a lot like our current family. No Disney vacations ever, no multiple sports leagues - just family activities at the park, in the yard, or in the family room. Here's where it deviates. While in years past you may have been able to experience this type of modest lifestyle on one income in this state, today you cannot. One salary alone will not pay the majority of mortgages and taxes in this overpriced state. Two salaries may get the mortgage paid but any "excess" that might be designated for savings is quickly eliminated by childcare costs. So while it's easy to "blame the seniors" (and lets not make any bones about it - the statistics show that the seniors in Manchester annually turn out to vote down school budgets) an "only $54 hike" in taxes is not easy for any middle class family to absorb. Every year they ask for an "only x-amount" hike to approve the budget. If every budget passed, the next thing you know is that after a few years you have an extra $150 added to already swelled taxes and mortgages payments. I've voted both for and against budgets. What everyone in this state needs to learn is some fiscal responsibility.

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