As more people filed into the meeting room in Town Hall on Wednesday night, the excitement became palpable as the results from the board of education election came pouring in district by district.
By the time the last person had left, the board had three new members and the district had a passed budget pending the official certification of the ballots.
When the board meets for the first time on May 11, it looks as though Al Miller and John Van Noy will be among the new members, while Stephen M. Levine will be returning for another term, having previously served on the board.
Of the 33,279 registered voters on the books for the township as of Wednesday night, 5,794, or just over 17 percent, turned out to vote in the elections. Out of that total Van Noy was the leading vote getter with a total of 2,668 pending the official certification. He was followed by Levine who received 2,612 votes and Miller with 2,601.
Miller said after seeing the results tallied that he was "excited" to serve on the board. "I'm ready to get on the road to start working for the students, the staff and the taxpayers of the district," he said. One of his goals is to keep flat tax levy budgets the norm in the district, similar to the one that was put forward this year.
Having served as president of some parent teacher organizations in the town, Miller said he was looking forward to being able to help on the district-wide level. "Now I will be able to make decisions and impact the students and taxpayers as a whole district instead of just at my individual school," he said.
Van Noy, who currently serves as the chairman of the zoning board, said he was "humbled," by his election to the board of education. In fact, with numbers coming in so quickly from polling places around the town, Van Noy said at first he did not even realize he had won.
Having gone through an intense campaign season to get elected, Van Noy said that while he was disappointed one of his running mates did not win, he was glad Miller did. "I hope to bring to the table 34 years of experience and serving the community," he said. "I really know the community and perhaps together we can provide an equitable balance for all."
After doing some preliminary research, Van Noy said he believes he can keep his seat on the zoning board after he joins the board of education. "I'll see whatever the zoning board would like and leave it to them," he said. Because the zoning board is more of a governmental body, Van Noy said he he said been assured that there is no conflict of interest between the positions.
With three new members of the board, Van Noy said he believes there could be a new approach when they meet next month. "It will be a difference in the majority, or what is perceived as the majority," he said. "I think the mindset will be, lets take a fresh look at things. That was part of our hope that would take place and that's what we wanted to do."
If the election results are certified, Van Noy said he is looking forward to working with and learning from the current members of the board going forward.
The third winner, Levine, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night.
The two incumbents running to hold their seats were Sherry Roses and Gene Tanala. Of the two, Roses received the most votes with 2,578, putting her just 23 votes behind Miller. Tanala meanwhile finished in a dead heat with Zig Panek with 2,562 votes. The third seat on the board was up for grabs as David Flaherty opted to not seek another term.
As the night went on, the one thing the people in the room seemed almost unanimously agreed upon was their hope that the budget would pass. With each district that reported, that hope became more of a reality and by the time the night was done, the voters had passed the budget by an impressive margin. The final tally had 3,358 people vote in favor of the budget, while 2,585 voted against.
Board Administrator Ronald Sanasac said that he had been optimistic that the budget would pass and was pleased to see that it did. The proposed budget has a flat tax levy from last year and also reinstated some positions that had been cut in the past. It also eliminated the pay to play structure at the middle school level for the athletic and co-curricular activities.
Because of the work put into the process, Sanasac said it was good to see the community support the effort. "We put forward a very frugal, very prudent budget and I look forward to implementing it," he said. "It was tight to begin with. We worked hard to get to the point where we could have a flat tax levy."
Had the budget not passed, Sanasac said it could have been a very difficult situation for the district. "It would have been difficult to sustain cuts from the council if we had to go in front of them," he noted.
The numbers were similar when it came to the Freehold Regional High School District budget, as 3482 votes were cast in favor of the budget, while 2478 voted against. That budget passed as well.