(Gloucester City News March 21, 2013)Bellmawr’s highly anticipated $3 million roof referendum passed by 125 votes while Brooklawn’s $1.8 million referendum was voted down 121-109.
Bellmawr School Superintendent, Annette Castiglione, confirmed the official numbers of 559 yes votes and 425 no votes and commented, “We are very happy that we can finally get moving on this.”
She was impressed with the large turn-out and said that in in the past, general school budget elections yield only about 600 voters.
She credited a Facebook page, the schools’ PTOs and parental support as all being instrumental pieces in getting the word out in favor of the referendum.
She sympathized with voter concerns about raising taxes and responded, “I’m a tax payer too and I understand the burden, but there was little choice.”
The superintendent called attention to the heavy rains that plagued our region on voting day, March 12. “In Bellmawr Park, there were buckets in the middle of the Multi-Purpose Room to collect the dripping water.”
Now that the referendum has passed, the next step is to begin the bidding and approval process, which will be addressed at the next Board of Education meeting.
She also added that the district’s architect, Bob Garrison, has already started to move forward. Castiglione reiterated the importance of keeping the students safe and to keep in mind the future of the schools.
She wants to get things moving quickly so that the approvals are in place and work can be begin over the summer with all work completed when the students return in September. She does not anticipate any delay, even though replacing three roofs is a major undertaking. “I’m confident that it will be finished in time,” she said.
As for the Borough of Brooklawn, the voters did not support the measure that would have allowed the school district to expand by purchasing the property at St. Maurice’s. School Board President, Bruce Darrow, was disappointed that the referendum did not pass and stated,
“We did not do a good enough job of getting information out.”
Darrow also spoke about the inclement weather and the Brooklawn Circle flooding, which Darrow wondered if that caused people to not come out and vote.
He also speculated that perhaps residents were concerned about a possible tax increase, but said, “We have gone ten years without our taxes going up.”
As for whether the matter will be brought again before voters, Darrow said that will be determined at the next Board of Education meeting. He added, “If we do, we have to do a better job about getting the word out and getting more information out.”