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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Hackensack's really lazy, clueless residents are major factor in school-budget elections

Frances Gogelja, center; Lance Powell, right; and Carlos Velez are challenging three incumbents backed by the Zisa family political machine in Tuesday's Board of Education and budget election.




The next time you hear a Hackensack resident bitching and moaning about high property taxes, ask them if they vote.

No. I'm not talking about the general election in November, when the outcome rarely affects local property taxes.

I'm talking about the election 97% of the registered voters in Hackensack love to ignore:

The April election for Board of Education members and the proposed school budget -- which accounts for nearly half of all the property taxes residents pay.

In fact, many homeowners pay only a few hundred dollars more in municipal taxes than in school taxes.

Of course, not all of the 97% of registered voters who sat out the last school election paid property taxes, but many were parents of schoolchildren, so what was their excuse?

What's your excuse?

Tuesday's election

On Tuesday, the many thousands of property tax payers will have another chance to tell the school board they are unhappy with yearly increases in the budget and the local tax levy required to support seemingly unchecked spending.

Voters can say "no" to the proposed budget of $117,143,515 by voting against the $82,865,444 tax levy or property taxes the board proposes to spend in 2018-19.

A "no" vote would allow the City Council to review the proposed spending plan, cut it or leave it as is.

Ten years ago, the tax levy was $56,698,771, so about half of any increase in property taxes in the past decade was driven by higher school budgets. 

In the current tax year, one homeowner in the Fairmount section is paying $8,843 in municipal taxes and $8,495 in school taxes; county, open space and library taxes brought his total tax bill t0 $18,874.

Apathy or ignorance?

Whether from apathy, laziness or ignorance, only 642 ballots were cast in the last school election in 2017 -- that was 3% of the 21,307 registered voters at the time.

The tax-levy proposition passed 342-210; only 552 of the 642 residents who voted appeared to know they could say "yes" or "no" to the budget.

As of last Wednesday, 23,401 residents of Hackensack were registered to vote, Bergen County election officials said.

Turnout in prior school elections: 1,133 in 2015, 864 in 2014 and 1,929 in 2013.


Residents can also vote against the three incumbents seeking another 3-year term: Mark A. Stein, Jason Nunnermacker and Daniel F. Carola -- all stooges of the Zisa family political machine.

Since 2013 and with the Zisas' backing, Nunnermacker, a lawyer who is the board president, has tried but failed repeatedly to get elected to the City Council.

So, why waste your vote on a board president who has been dying to get as far as possible away from the schools?

Difficult ballot

Voting in Tuesday's election won't be as easy as voting in the May municipal and general elections:

Polls on Tuesday won't open until 2 p.m., and will close at 8 p.m.

Although there are two groups of candidates running for seats on the school board, the three members on each slate aren't grouped together or allowed to use the name of their team.

So, you'll have to search for your choices.

On Tuesday's Board of Education ballot, challengers from "The Putting Our Kids First Team" -- Frances Cogelja, Carlos A. Velez, Lancelot Powell -- appear on Lines 2, 4 and 5.
Next to the column of candidates on Tuesday's ballot, parents and property tax payers will find the nearly $83 million tax levy proposition, which they can vote against and send the proposed budget to the City Council for review.

Kick out Zisas

The message from the three challengers is simple:

"Put our kids first ... and the Zisa Brothers last!"

Of course, the reference is to former four-term Hackensack Mayor Jack Zisa and his brother, disgraced former Police Chief Ken Zisa, who held onto power in the schools after reformers defeated Zisas-backed City Council slates in 2013 again in 2017.

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