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Berkeley Heights Board of Ed Votes to Move Elections to Nov., Discontinue Public Vote on School Budget

BOE Member Paul Beisser disagrees with board, saying public's right to vote on the budget should be fiercely protected.

On Thursday night, Feb.9, after a rigorous discussion with input from almost a half dozen members of the public, the Berkeley Heights Board of Education voted to move the April school board elections to November with one member of the board voting against the decision.

The board had until Feb. 17 to decide on the law that was introduced by Gov. Chris Christie in January. 

In addition to moving the board elections until later in the year, the law also discontinues the public's right to vote on school district budgets as long as the budget does not exceed a 2 percent cap. 

A majority of the board members and the public spoke favorably about the new law, but board member Paul Beisser said he was entirely opposed to it. 

Beisser said the right to vote on the school budget is an important opportunity for the public to express how it feels about the decisions that the Board of Education is making. 

"With a school budget of $45 million, that breaks down to approximately $12,000 per homeowner. It's important for the tax payer to weigh in on the budget," Beisser said. 

Other members of the board and the public were in agreement that moving the board of education election could encourage more voter participation.

Board Member Doug Reinstein said, currently only 27 percent of the taxpayers vote on the school district budget. 

Board President John Sincaglia and board member Mary Ann Walsh assured the public that the school budget planning will continue to be completely transparent and the board will most certainly continue to welcome the public's input. 

"We are elected officials who have been put in this position to learn as much as we can about what it takes to provide a quality education for our children. We are committed to making the best decisions we can for our children. But we should be allowed to do what we were elected to do," Walsh said.

She said the public has ample opportunity to vote members off the board if it feels that the board is not doing a good job. 

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