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Edison Voters Approve Funding Elementary School

$18.6 Million Will Bonded to Rebuild Burned School
3-10-15 - Edison Township Municipal Building
All smiles and working the phones. Edison School Adminstrators Share the Good News. Jeremy Baratta

EDISON, NJ–Supporters of the board of education bond referendum carried the day in the special election to decide whether to issue 18.6 million dollars for the rebuilding of James Monroe Elementary School.

Twelve days before the first anniversary of the fire that destroyed the 50 year old building, 61.5% of voters supported borrowing the money needed to build a new school. 38.4% of voters voted ‘no’ on the bond issue. There were no unrecorded votes.

Unofficial returns from Acting Township Clerk Cheryl Russomano showed 2022 voted ‘yes,’ with 1263 ‘no’ votes, for a total of 3,285 ballots cast. The total provided includes mail-in ballots.

With Edison Township having approximately 52,000 registered voters, turnout was around 6.3%.

By far, the most votes cast were at the Herbert Hoover Middle School. 15% of all votes cast were from the Jackson Avenue School, and the 2 machines there accounted for the 2 busiest.

493 total ballots were cast in the little room off the main hallway that housed 2 voting machines serving 5 districts.

Voters from the destroyed James Monroe Elementary School were moved to Herbert Hoover. The second busiest machine served those voters and had the most ‘yes’ votes with 206 cast, to only 29 ‘no’ votes cast. The 177 vote gap was the largest in the township.

The other machine, serving 3 districts, had a slightly higher turnout, with 23 more voters, all ‘no’ votes. The busiest machine of the night recorded 192 ‘yes’ to 66 ‘no’ votes.

The most ‘no’ votes were cast at the John Marshall Elementary School, with 110 ‘no’ votes to only 44 ‘yes.’ The 66 vote gap was the most for ‘no’ votes. ‘No’ votes were in the majority in only 3 of the 33 districts.

The lone district to vote at Middlesex County College saw the least votes cast overall and was also the district with the least ‘no’ votes cast. The machine there recorded 15 votes, with only 1 ‘no.’ The 14-1 split represented the largest margin of the night, however.

One district was tied at 27, and 3 districts had a one vote margin. One of them was a district where ‘no’ voters dominated.

Edison Township Education Association president Jeff Bowden, who was present when the returns came in, said on behalf of his members “we are ecstatic.” Referring to the last time a school was built in Edison, he said “it’s the best day in Edison in 42 years.” A huge smile on his face, he stated “the community came out and supported the kids.”

School Superintendent Richard O’Malley said “it’s a very good night.” The district is expecting to go out to bid on the new school in the spring.

The approval of the bond will add $21 per year to the average homeowner’s tax bill for the next 30 years. That amount will be reduced by almost $1 for every million dollars in additional insurance coverage the district receives.

The district is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with its insurance group over the cost of building a new school.

Speaking about whether the district thinks the James Monroe students can be in a new school by the target date of September 2016, O’Malley said “we are sticking to our timeline.”

When asked if the school could not be ready by then, he admitted “there is always that possibility.” He said the district could be “within a month or 2 over our timeline.”

Commenting on the process over the last year and what is yet to come, O’Malley said it “continues to be a long, long journey.”