Proposal exceeded cap state tax hike cap
GERMANTOWN–Twice as many voters as usual turned out for Tuesday’s school budget and board election, according to district clerk Linda Griffin. A majority of them came to vote in the negative, turning down the $13.6 million budget proposed by the Board of Education, even though the budget proposal called for spending 1.9% less than the current budget.
At the same time, they returned incumbent Ralph DelPozzo to the board and elected a first-time candidate Faydra Rekow Geraghty.
Elsewhere around the county budgets and spending propositions in the five other public districts passed by comfortable margins. (See chart on Page 10.)
In a final vote count that includes some three-dozen absentee ballots, the budget was rejected 514 to 415, indicating voters opposed the 5.2% tax levy increase that came with the spending plan. Because that increase was well over the 2% state-mandated cap, it would have needed 60% approval to pass. Instead it got about 44%.
The budgets in the other districts all proposed tax levy increases at or below the state cap.
“The good news is that people came out and voted, said district Superintendent Patrick Gabriel. “I just hope that those who voted against the budget understand the difference between this budget and a contingency budget,” which the district may adopt now.
The school board has the options of putting a new budget or the same budget to a public vote June 10, or going to a so-called contingency budget, which limits spending in most categories to current levels. If a second vote were to fail, the district would be required to impose a contingency budget.
A contingency spending plan would permit no tax increase regardless of increased costs and would curtail extracurricular activities.
Of the five school board candidates, Mr. DelPozzo received the highest number of votes, 635. He was “humbled” by the support, he said. “Now the board will have to meet and work on getting the tax increase down, which I wanted to do originally.”
The final count gave Ms. Geraghty 552 votes. With five candidates, she said, she had expected a tough race, and was “pleasantly surprised” to have won a seat on the board. In the short term the budget is important, she said, and in the short and long terms school programs and community feedback are important.
To this end, an optional survey about the district was available to voters. Results were being compiled Wednesday and will be given to the board.
Incumbent David Forman came in third, with 327 votes. Because the new board members are not sworn in until the board’s organization meeting on July 11, he will be part of the next round of budget negotiations.
Stephen Savoris and Nicholas Ertle trailed the others with 226 and 138 votes respectively.
An upbeat Mr. Ertle said, “We gave the voters a choice.” His goal had been more transparency in the budget process, he said, and he hoped that would happen this time, along with a “more palatable” tax increase. “I hope the board will work harder to find a happy medium” in cuts and a tax increase, he said.