Voters approved a growing school tax levy by 473 votes, with 52 percent of voters in the four towns that make up the Toms River Regional School District voting yes to the school budget.
The unofficial results:
- Yes: 5,754 votes, or 52.14 percent
- No 5,281 votes, or 47.86 percent
- Total: 11,035 votes
It was a narrow victory for the Toms River Regional budget, which requires $131 million in taxes and a 3.3 cent tax rate increase for Toms River residents.
The $200.49 million budget passed in spite of a tax increase of 3.6 percent, in a year when districts were mandated to grow by 2 percent or less. Business Administrator Bill Doering said the budget was allowed to fall outside the 2 percent cap because pension costs were excluded from that rule, and pensions grew by 27 percent over last year.
Superintendent Frank Roselli pointed out in his budget presentation that the district still had a low per-pupil cost and that the ratio of administrators to pupil spending was also low compared to the state average.
It was also approved amid a tarnished image for the district, after the October resignation of former superintendent Michael Ritacco, charged with bribery and wire fraud.
Candidate Alex Pavliv said he was somewhat disappointed the budget passed, because he believes there is very unnecessary spending in the budget, in the form of inflated professional contracts.
Other candidates, however, said they felt the budget was the result of hard work to do what’s best for students.
"I am absolutely delighted that the budget passed," said candidate Mary Ann Bagaec. "At the very least the new board can move forward with this new budget," she added. If the budget failed, it would be in the hand of the township council to amend.
Linda Garvey, current Board of Education president, said getting the budget to pass is often the most nerve-racking part of the election.
“In my 18 years, we’ve had the budget fail maybe twice,” she said. “We’ve been very lucky.”
Other places, she said, haven’t been. Barnegat Schools District, where Garvey works, often finds its residents vote down its school budget, she said (Barnetat voters approved the budget this year). Last year was particularly hard to have budgets pass in towns across the state, Garvey said, adding that Toms River’s passed by less than 1,000 votes.
Of the 15,501 votes cast on the budget question, 52.6 percent, or 8,179, voted yes last year, according to the county clerk’s archive.