High Point school board agrees to keep elections in November

Wantage. After a 14 percent increase in the property tax levy, the sending districts of Branchville, Lafayette, Sussex, and Wantage approved resolutions to hold elections in April to give voters a say on the budget.

| 02 Feb 2021 | 03:39

The High Point Regional High School Board of Education on Jan. 26 rejected resolutions by the municipalities from four of the school’s sending districts to change its elections to the third Tuesday in April.

The school board voted 8-1 in favor of keeping the elections in November. Only one school board member, William Kehoe of Wantage, voted against the measure, saying they “haven’t fully fleshed out the alternatives.”

Branchville, Lafayette, Sussex, and Wantage have all approved resolutions. Frankford’s resolution failed 3-2.

School board member Joseph Corazza called the resolutions “politics at its worst.”

“It’s unfortunate that we even have to pass this resolution,” he said. “I think the governing bodies are acting disingenuously.”

The basis for the municipalities’ resolutions was based on the budget for the 2020-21 school year that saw the High Point school board use banked cap to raise the property tax levy 14 percent to cover a steep state aid cut and work on the building.

Corazza said the prior seven years, the school board reduced the tax levy by 11 percent and over eight years only raised the levy 3.2 percent.

“I would challenge any of those five municipalities to say they kept property taxes at that rate of increase over that period of time,” Corazza said.

Board of Education member Debbie Anderson of Branchville said the state has been cutting aid over the past three years and will continue for the next four years. When all is said and done, High Point is expected to lose over $5 million in state aid.

Taking the money from the banked cap was a one-year thing.

“We can’t do that again,” Anderson said. “We took all the money out of the bank. We can’t do it again.”

Board of Education President Wayne Dunn said the school board is limited to a 2 percent tax levy increase without banked cap. Anything higher would force the budget to a vote and he said an April election would drive up the tax levy.

He said when High Point enters the 2021-22 budget season, he hoped the district will make presentations to all the stakeholders in the sending districts and municipalities.

“I believe our work should be questioned both at our own board meeting and if we make presentations to councils,” Dunn said. “The purpose is to gain an understanding of why our decisions are made.”

“It’s unfortunate that we even have to pass this resolution. I think the governing bodies are acting disingenuously.” Joseph Corazza