SUSSEX-WANTAGE - For the third time in 11 years, The Sussex-Wantage School District's 2004-2005 budget failed to pass voter approval April 20, requiring the district to hammer out an amended budget with local officials before the state mandated drop-dead deadline of May 19. The $21.2 million school budget failed 602 to 428. "The public has handed down a mandate," said School Board Business Administrator Ed Pladdys. "We are not happy that it didn't pass, but we are listening to the public." Board members and administrators will sit down with local elected officials from both sending districts, said Pladdys, to hammer out a resolution to the budget. "This will take more time and effort," he said. "We reduced the budget in February and we believe our relationship with local officials is cordial." Sussex Borough Incumbents Theresa Higgins and Carla Henckel retained their seats on the board in an uncontested race. In Wantage, winner Arthur R. Jacobs was voted to the board 211 to 201 over second-place Jennifer L. VanderWiele. Incumbent Chris Shadwell received 145 votes and Michael F. Derin received 149. Dean S. Haggerty, who had withdrawn from the race when it was too late to get his name off the ballot, received 159 votes. "Costs must be kept affordable so the taxpayers don't have to sell their homes," said Jacobs. "The district costs are some of the highest in the state of New Jersey, so I think the superintendent and the administrator should have an open-book policy and have accountability to the taxpayers of Wantage Township and Sussex Borough to tell us why that is." The district is exploring the possibility of a facilities improvement plan that could go to referendum as early as September for repairs, renovations and improvements to its existing structures. The district is also considering whether to build a new school for as much as $55 million, 40 percent of which could be funded by the state under Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act.