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School Budgets Get Green Light From Voters

Mostly uncontested school board elections result in few surprises.

School budgets were passed in the Caldwell/West Caldwell School District, the North Caldwell School District and the West Essex Regional School District during Wednesday’s school elections.

The budgets were all within the state-mandated 2% cap and did not include any cuts to programs or faculty.

On the West Essex Board of Education, voters chose Frank Antonucci and Anthony Rubinich for the two open seats representing the sending district of Fairfield. 

The winning candidates received a total of 374 and 394 votes respectively, according to final unofficial returns Wednesday night. In a close race, David Zaccaria, a third candidate vying for the two open seats, fell short with 346 votes.

For Caldwell-West Caldwell and North Caldwell school district— where candidates ran unopposed ­— results were predictable.

Mary Davidson will serve a fourth three-year term on the Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education. Incumbent Robert Kessler has been re-elected to serve a second term on the North Caldwell Board of Education and newcomer Valerie Buccino has been elected to her first full term.

All three local districts adopted their budgets earlier this year. The districts all met state requirements to remain under a 2% cap increase to the local tax levy.

Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education

Voters in the towns of Caldwell and West Caldwell passed the adopted $40 million school budget for 2011. The budget, which represents a 0% increase to the tax levy, was considered “historic” by the board when it was introduced earlier this year.

A homeowner in Caldwell will see a tax bill increase of $129 on a home assessed at the borough’s average of $432,000. In West Caldwell, the average property owner could expect a tax bill decrease of $8 on a home assessed at the township’s average of $432,000.

Mary Davidson was elected to her fourth term on the Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education. Davidson, a registered nurse, most recently served as the president of the board and has been on the board for nearly a decade. She received 725 votes according to unofficial returns.

Earlier in the evening she said, “I am looking forward to continue the work that I have done for the last nine years. This is a very cohesive Board, and it was not a hard decision to seek re-election. I am also thankful the community has shown confidence in me in selecting me for another term.

The unofficial results show the school district overwhelmingly passed with a vote of 625 yes votes to 369 no votes, combining votes in both Caldwell and West Caldwell.

North Caldwell Board of Education

North Caldwell voters passed the Board of Education’s proposed $12.3 million school budget for 2011 and re-elected incumbent Robert Kessler and first-time candidate Valerie Z. Buccino to the school board. Both candidates ran unopposed for three-year terms.

The $12.3 million budget represents a 1.06% increase over the current school year budget, or an increase of $129,000. Residents of North Caldwell will see their tax bills go up by an average of $154 for the year.

When it was adopted by the BOE in March, the district’s Business Administrator Victor Hayek said, “I am confident this budget meets our needs.”

According to earlier Patch reports, there were no cuts to programs or staff in the 2011 budget.

According to final, unofficial returns, the budget was approved by a vote of 410 to 229, with a total of 639 votes cast.

Incumbent Kessler will serve a second three-year term on the Board of Education in the two-school district. According to unofficial returns, Kessler, who works in sales, received 429 votes and Buccino received 401 votes. There were four write-in votes also supporting the candidates.

He said,"I am looking forward to a great second term and to working with my fellow Board members. I would also like to officially welcome Valerie to the Board.” 

Buccino was elected to her first full-term on the Board of Education after running unopposed. The stay-at-home mother of three and self-employed attorney ran for the Board seat previously held by Aggie Doolen. 

On election night Buccino said, "I am very excited to officially be a member of the North Caldwell Board of Education and I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead of me."

West Essex Board of Education

Voters in the four sending districts that make up the West Essex Regional Schools District, North Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield and Roseland, passed the $34.5 million 2011-2012 school budget.

The total vote count, according to final, unofficial returns was 1,493 votes for the budget and 1,067 against.

The budget, which was adopted by the BOE in March, represents a 1.6% increase to the tax levy.

According to earlier Patch reports, the estimated tax impact for the four sending districts varies by town. For Essex Fells, the estimated tax impact is minimal, at an average increase of $5.63. Fairfield will have the largest increase, estimated at $138.30, with North Caldwell and Roseland at $86.90 and $62.27 respectively.

Three candidates battled for the two open seats representing Fairfield on the West Essex Board , with incumbent Frank Antonucci and Anthony Rubinich emerging as winners.

Antonucci, a project manager for a major technology firm, will serve a second three-year term. He said, “I  want to thank the people in Fairfield for the confidence they have shown by re-electing me.  I think passing the budget even reinforces more the value of what we have done in the last three years and hopefully we can do a lot more in the next three years."

Rubinich, who will fill the seat being vacated by Board President Phyllis Helmstetter, will serve his first three-year term on the board. He said, “I am truly honored by the confidence Fairfield voters have placed in me and am thrilled to have received the most votes.  I am committed to delivering effective education efficiently and economically to benefit all key stakeholders including our children, taxpayers and teachers."

Dawn M. Smith was re-elected to represent the sending district of Roseland on the West Essex Board. According to unofficial returns, Smith received a total of 497 votes and will serve a second three-year term. She had been appointed to the Board in December to fill the unexpired term of Carolann Aschoff.

Smith said she was happy voters approved the West Essex budget. She said, "I am encouraged by West Essex voters decision to continue to support excellence in education by approving the 2011 budget. I am honored to continue to represent Roseland on the Board."

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