Lakewood Tax Referendum Suffers Landslide Defeat

LAKEWOOD -
(AP Photo/Mike Derer)
(AP Photo/Mike Derer)

A tax referendum designed to save the much discussed “courtesy busing” was soundly defeated by Lakewood voters with nearly 99 percent of the electorate coming out against the measure. With its defeat, roughly 10,000 students who live within two miles of their respective schools will lose busing in a month unless some other means of funding becomes available.

The measure’s defeat was largely expected. The idea of raising taxes in order to help cover the district’s deficit, estimated at $12 million, was opposed by Lakewood askanim and the school board. Both claimed that taxpayers should not have to pick up the bill for the state’s “severe underfunding” of the town’s schools, as articulated in a letter from the Lakewood Vaad and Ichud Hamosdos. However, the issue was sent to a public vote by state monitor Michael Azzara.

“The reality that over 7,000 people voted against the referendum is a clear and loud declaration to the state that raising taxes is not a solution to our deficit,” Rabbi Avi Schnall, director of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey division, told Hamodia.

A tally showed that 7,561 people voted against the proposal while only 108 cast ballots in favor. 521 were submitted by mail.

Rabbi Schnall explained that the roots of the district’s financial woes are a failure to account for the roughly 25,000 children who attend non-public schools, who receive funding for busing, special education and certain other mandated services, as well as a statewide “funding-freeze” that has prevented recalculation of finances to account for the increased number of public school students over the past year.

“A systemic change needs to happen to properly solve the cause of the deficit,” he said. “The people have spoken.”