NEW JERSEY - Hoboken voters overwhelmingly rejected a costly high school project on Tuesday. There were about twice as many no votes as yes votes for the new school.
Heated meetings, social media brawls, a flood of op-eds, and more have seemingly dominated the city over the weeks leading up to the vote.
The school board proposed erecting a new high school where the current school’s football field sits and building a new field on its rooftop. It would come with other sports facilities like an ice rink and a swimming pool. As well as new classrooms, science labs, art studios, an auditorium, a black box theater, and more.
"We’re seeing this huge wave come, we need to address enrollment at all levels," said BOE President Sharon Angley.
But the project would have cost $241-million-dollars which becomes $331-million when you include interest payments paid for by the taxpayers of Hoboken.
The plan was to raise property taxes by about 6% to pay for the project.
"If built, the school will be the most expensive high school ever built in the U.S.," Hoboken resident Jerome Abernathy said.
He planned to vote ‘no.’
"Its a beautiful facility, it’s a great facility, it’s just something we don’t need," said Matt Majer.
Malani Cademartori, Vice President of the Hoboken Board of Education, argued the price tag was so high because the updates are long overdue.
"We’re basically making up for not having anything new here in terms of educational facilities for over 50 years," said Cademartori.
Folks like Abernathy and Majer also frustrated by the way the information was – or wasn’t – publicized.
The referendum was announced on Dec. 10, 2021, without the board asking for any feedback from the community, shortly after the November elections and just a month and a half ahead of the vote.
"I believe this was orchestrated between the Board of Ed and this administration to keep this from the public’s knowledge because they knew if it were out most people would not be for it," said Majer.
Officials claim they held off on the announcement to avoid muddying the political waters.
"The merit of the project itself would be very difficult to tease out when dropped into the midst of a larger political election," said Superintendent Christine Johnson.
"Although the process could have been better, this is a once in a generation opportunity to elevate and uplift our school children, and our property values, if we wait any longer, costs are only going to get higher," said Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
Others insist that members of the public needed to have a bigger seat at the table.
"An equitable situation for them is equal education, not facilities, not sports its quality of education. Rather than talking about luxury amenities, we’d like to talk about the things that really matter and that’s education," said Abernathy.