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West Windsor Voters Deny Funding to After-School Program

West Windsor — Voters approved both the $2.4 million school budget and $970,916 combined general fund and highway budget yesterday, along with about $101,000 in separate appropriations for the town.

The only defeat, 55-40, was an article that sought $10,000 for an after-school program. Supporters said it was a small price to pay for a valuable community service that will help attract young families to town. Others did not think taxpayers should support the program, even though parents pay some of the cost.

“If we can spend $6,000 on a geomorphic assessment, we can afford another $10,000 on our children,” said John Cocke, adding that he would rather give the money for an after-school program than the $10,000 on another article for the town forest.

But Ashley Pakenham said when she was raising children, parents would get together and work out their own day care. “We did not expect others to pay,” Pakenham said. “We are taxed to the absolute limit. I think this is above and beyond what we can do for kids.”

The geomorphic assessment Cocke referred to was approved after two amendments, one to take all of the $6,000 from the Conservation Commission fund instead of taxes, and a second to take $3,000 from the fund and $3,000 from taxes, were defeated. The final vote was 68-19.

Conservation Commission Chairman Ted Siegler said the assessment will identify obstructed areas in the Beaver and Willow brooks, which feed Mill Brook, that can lead to flooding in heavy rains. The goal of the assessment is to improve stream flow and avoid a repeat of the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

“We should look at it as a smart way to improve and safeguard sections of river and prevent some of the consequences of these floods downstream,” said Audrey Halpert.

But Gary Burke laid the blame on the state for not allowing towns to get into streams and clean them out. “They will never let you people dig out the brooks,” said Burke. “If you don’t have the state play along with you, you are wasting your money.”

Views on allocating $10,200 for the Town Forest Fund were divided between those who said the town forest should be a self-sustaining enterprise and those who said the development and maintenance of a trail system will reap economic benefits for the entire town. The article passed by voice vote.

The town budget article was amended to use $36,387 from the surplus to keep the amount to be raised by taxes to $715,100, the same as this year.

“We are nervous about the effect of reappraisal,” said Selectboard Chairman Glenn Seward.

Voters approved creating a reserve fund to maintain gravel roads, with the money to come from grants, taxes and surplus funds.

On the school budget side, special education, a deficit, health insurance and pay raises helped drive up the spending plan 11 percent, adding 16 cents per $100 of valuation to the homestead tax rate.

“The influx of students requiring higher needs that we are mandated to pay for blew away our budget,” said Supervisory Union Business Manager Ed Connors.

School officials said the government establishes what is needed for special education students and the town must fund it. The budget passed by ballot, 87-73

The following passed by unanimous voice vote: $46,000 for the volunteer fire department; $1,500 for the FAST squad, $14,000 for the library; $7,500 for the listers fund; $6,500 for the historical society; $8,862 for several different social service agencies; and $500 for the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf.

All incumbents were nominated and re-elected from the floor.

The meeting started with 170 voters or 21 percent of the 794 registered.

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