With more than 15,000 ballots cast, preliminary results show township voters rejected the initial question by about a 5-percent margin, and subsequent questions by about a 60-40 split.
By Matt Skoufalos | December 11, 2018
In a special election Tuesday night, Cherry Hill voters turned down a proposed $211-million bond that would have made security, infrastructure, and other facilities improvements to 18 buildings in its school district.
The district failed to garner enough votes to pass the initial question, a $49.7-million bond issue, thus nullifying the outcomes of two other conditional questions.
According to early reporting provided by Cherry Hill Public Schools, Question One fell by a count of 8,302 to 7,275.
The subsequent questions fared even worse, with Question Two sunk by more than 3,500 votes (9,010 against versus 6,583 in favor), and Question Three by nearly 2,800 votes (9,166 to 6,368).
All calculations are preliminary and unofficial until certified by the Camden County Board of Elections.
The district noted that absentee ballots postmarked by December 11 would still be accepted if received by December 13. Final tallies aren’t expected until Friday.
Outside of those numbers, the district issued only a brief statement that it would “engage in discussion… regarding the next election date” at its December 18 meeting. Requests for further comment were deferred until Wednesday.
Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn said the vote may reflect that “real estate taxes in general have reached the tipping point.”
“I think people are just fed up, in general, with any tax increase that they have to vote for,” Cahn said. “The taxes are just generally very high in this state, and it’s a shame because our schools need help.”
Cahn credited Cherry Hill Superintendent of Schools Joe Meloche for his efforts to engage the community around the referendum, but said it’s difficult to find a solution that will satisfy the broad range of stakeholders in the township.
“I’m really not sure how you do that when you have a community this large and this diverse, on multiple sides of the issue,” Cahn said.
What comes next has yet to be determined. The district had promised that any of the questions that failed to pass would be reintroduced in subsequent special elections. Cahn wondered if the incoming board of education, which includes three new-to-office members, would be as supportive of that approach.
Either way, the district doesn’t have the ability to make the infrastructure repairs identified in the referendum within its normal operating budget.
“We’re behind the eight-ball with fair funding, and it’s going to be tough to catch up without a bond referendum,” Cahn said.
The mayor was also critical of the outcome, saying that the “no” vote “doesn’t send a good message to the people who want to move to Cherry Hill.
“It says to me generally that the public was not as supportive of our schools as they should be,” Cahn said. “We provide a great education for our kids, but the schools are very lacking, and the physical structures show it.”
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