Voters approve budget

| 18 Apr 2012 | 02:14

This article was corrected from the original story that appeared online.

By Patricia Keller and Linda Smith Hancharick

WEST MILFORD — Voters in the West Milford School District have approved its budget for the second year in a row.

Unofficial results from the Passaic County Board of Elections show the 1,906 votes in favor and 1,442 votes against the $68.5 million budget were cast.

Newcomers Inga Koeppe and Kevin Babbitt won seats on the board, joining incumbent Greg Bailey, who posted his sixth election win.

Current board member John Aiello failed in his bid for reelection. Adrienne Shanler also fell short for a spot on the board.

"We are extremely happy the budget passes and we would like to thank the voters for their support," said Interim Superintendent of West Milford schools John Petrelli. "We look forward to implementing the new full Kindergarten program next year as well the other programs the budget supports."

Candidates are eager Babbitt's wife Marcie served on the school board from 2008 to 2011. This is his first time running for office.

"I would like to thank the voters of West Milford for supporting me in the recent Board of Education election," said Babbitt. "I am honored to be given the opportunity to serve as a board trustee. It is very encouraging to see the school budget tax levy approved by the voters. This will appropriate us the necessary funding to continue to pursue innovative educational initiatives in our district."

Babbitt ran with Koeppe, who is also new to the board but not a stranger within the district. Koeppe is active in the Paradise Knoll PTA and is liaison to the West Milford Parents association. She was the top vote-getter for the day. Both have children currently in the district. Koeppe was honored by her victory.

"I am truly grateful and honored for the opportunity to serve on the West Milford Board of Education," said Koeppe. "With this great responsibility, I will be committed to ensuring that our school system continues to blossom as a substantial asset to this community, and one that offers unparalleled educational programs and opportunities that will benefit the students of West Milford throughout their lives."

Koeppe was also pleased to have the budget pass.

"I am also pleased that the voters approved the 2012-2013 school budget, which is vitally important to the well being of the overall school system. I look forward to building a healthy, vibrant school district where people from both inside and outside the area see West Milford as a great place to raise their children," she said.

Bailey is the only incumbent returning. He's served 16 years on the board.

"I would like to thank the good people of West Milford for their support and I will continue to work hard in my seventh term on the West Milford Board of Education," said Bailey. "I am very happy that the budget has passed and that in itself is telling. The citizens of West Milford Township have come forward and they have shown in this election that they support their school system. There is work to be done and I am ready to dive in and get back to work."

Incumbent John Aiello was seeking his second consecutive term on the board. He also served on the board in the 1970s. Trustee Barbara Carter did not seek reelection.

Budget overview The tax levy part of the 2012 budget is $51.7 million, up 1.76 percent over last years tax levy and under the 2 percent cap required by the state. According to the administration's figures, an average assessed house of $247,000 after the reassessment, will pay $4,549 in school taxes, up $38 and change from last year.

The budget includes $1.7 million in surplus to help implement a full-day kindergarten program and additional personnel.

There were no cuts in this budget. Stabilized health premiums, additional state aid and conservative spending were the reasons for that, according to Petrelli.

Nine full-time and nine part-time staff members have been added in this budget, as well as software replacements, security cameras at the high school, two new trucks and home economics classroom cabinets.

"We all appreciate the support of the community in the passing of the 2012-13 budget," said Petrelli.

The reorganization meeting is set for Wednesday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. at Westbrook School. It will be followed by the board's regular meeting.