Newcomer wins seat, budget passes

By jennifer dome
Staff Writer

By jennifer dome
Staff Writer

SOUTH RIVER — After 15 years of service on the Board of Education, Robert Bodnar, 64, lost his bid for re-election Tuesday.

Voters instead elected newcomer Peggy Marino to one of three open seats, along with board incumbents Andy Miller and Karl Haider.

"Maybe it’s time for a change. I was on there for quite a while," Bodnar said after the election.

"I wish good luck to the newcomer and hope that she does a good job," he added.

With 368 votes, Marino garnered more support than any of the incumbents, while Andy Miller and Karl Haider received 315 and 311 votes, respectively. Bodnar obtained 266 votes.

"I’m thrilled that I won," Marino said. "I’m very happy with the results. I feel that people agreed with me that we need some people [on the board] with children in the school system."

Marino said her only disappointment was the low turnout for the election.

Approximately 557 residents voted, only 7.4 percent of registered voters in the borough.

Marino, 40, works as a legal assistant. She has two children enrolled in the school system and another child who will attend the South River Elementary School.

Marino served on the committee that advocated for the passing of the recent primary school referendum. She is also the high school PTA president and sits on the executive board of the elementary school PTA.

Haider, 69, has nine years’ experience on the board. His three children graduated from district schools, and he has three grandchildren enrolled in the district now. He is a former borough board of health member and past president of JFK Baseball. He has also run the youth program at St. Mary of Ostrabrama Church and served on the borough’s human relations commission.

Miller, 50, a sergeant with the borough’s police department, has two children who graduated from district schools. He has served as a volunteer firefighter for the past 28 years and is a member of the Masons. Miller was also involved with the Pop Warner and Little League organizations in the past.

The 2003-04 budget, which holds the tax rate stable, was passed by voters Tuesday with 372 votes in favor and 144 against.

The total budget amounts to approximately $21.3 million — an increase of $660,000, or 3.2 percent, over last year.

The district’s state aid has also increased by 1.9 percent — bringing the total amount of aid to approximately $8.4 million.

The school tax rate will remain at $2.35 per $100 of assessed valuation under the current proposal. The owner of property assessed at the borough average of $81,200 will pay $1,908 for the 2003-04 school year.

Included in the budget are four new staff positions at South River High School, according to Superintendent of Schools John Ambrogi. The district will hire teachers in science, math, English and foreign language.

Last year, a 1-cent tax decrease gave taxpayers on the average-assessed home a $5 break over the 2001-02 budget. In 2000-2001, the average homeowner paid approximately $40 more than the tax amount proposed under the new budget.