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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Victorious school board challengers will be seated Monday; $82.8M tax levy approved

Frances Cogelja, holding up broom; Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse and Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino celebrating on Tuesday night after Cogelja and two other challengers defeated three incumbents for seats on the Board of Education.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Three challengers who ran with the support of the mayor and City Council will be seated on Monday at the Board of Education's reorganization meeting.

Frances Cogelja, Carlos A. Velez and Lance Powell defeated school board President Jason Nunnermacker and two other incumbents, Mark A. Stein and Daniel F. Carola, in Tuesday's school election.

They won three-year terms on the nine-member board.

The reorganization meeting at which they will be sworn in starts at 6:15 p.m. in the Hackensack High School Media Center.

Voters also approved an $82.8 million tax levy to support a budget of $117.1 million budget.

That means nearly half of every property owner's taxes will go to pay salaries and other expenses at the city's public schools.

Get Zisas Out

The challengers, who called themselves the Putting Our Kids First Team, campaigned against Nunnermacker, Stein and Carola as stooges of the Zisa family political machine.

Former four-term Mayor Jack Zisa and his brother, disgraced ex-Police Chief Ken Zisa, held onto power at the school board after their allies were defeated in City Council elections in 2013 and again in 2017.

At the height of their power, Hackensack was mocked far and wide as "Zisaville."

Cogelja, Velez and Powell pledged to provide better security for children by putting a retired cop in every school; stop insurance and legal fee abuses; and improve the working relationship between the board and city officials.

Election results

In unofficial results released by the Bergen County Clerk's Office, 1,629 or 7.65% of the 21,303 registered voters cast ballots.

That includes 100 mail-in ballots. The Board of Elections put the number of registered voters as of last Wednesday at 23,401 -- higher than the county clerk's figure.

The totals for the candidates in Tuesday's balloting:

Velez, 961; Cogelja, 935; and Powell, 923.

For the defeated incumbents, Carola, 632; Stein, 573; and Nunnermacker, 557.

Since 2013, Nunnermacker has tried but failed three times to be elected to the City Council, so voters may have felt his commitment to the schools was weak.

After Mayor John Labrosse and his slate of reformers were elected in 2013, Nunnermacker, others members of the board and board attorney Richard Salkin appeared at every council meeting to harshly criticize the winners, their appointees and their policies.

School budget

Although 1,629 ballots were cast, only 1,142 people voted "yes" or "no" on the tax-levy proposition, which was approved 695-447.

That means only 695 out of 44,000 city residents approved the use of $82.8 million in property taxes to support the school budget.

The Record

The election results that appeared on NorthJersey.com this morning were incomplete, both for the candidates and the vote on the tax levy.

The story also included an incorrect figure for the tax levy, $83.5 million, instead of the correct $82.8 million.

In late March, The Record also reported the proposed 2018-19 school budget incorrectly as $112 million before correcting that two days later to $117 million.