JACKSON – Two out of the three Board of Education incumbents seeking re-election will retain office for another three-year term. The district’s special ballot question won approval at the polls by a margin of 51.43 percent to 48.57 percent on Election Day.
Board members running for re-election this year included Board President Scott Sergent who received 7,185 votes. He was edged out by former board member Gustavo “Gus” Acevedo who received 7,725 votes.
Vice Board President Vicki Grasso received the most votes in the race with 10,092 while Board member John Barnetsky received 8,111 in the three seat race.
The school district’s question concerned the hiring of six additional security guards to provide additional protection of the district’s schools. It received 8,741 votes in support and 8,255 opposing the idea.
The Board of Education held a forum last month at the Jackson Memorial High School Fine Arts Center to answer any questions the public might have and to explain the need for the added security personnel. The forum drew around 30 residents with only three people asking questions during the session.
The district will now have a total of 19 security officers. It currently has two police resource officers the cost of which is shared between the school district and township.
School Superintendent Stephen Genco said repeatedly during the last several months that due to the number of schools the district has “the number of students and staff for whom we are responsible, we need to do more. We need these additional officers to give us better coverage of all of our buildings.”
The district has been working with the Jackson Police Department and has added security upgrades. Genco stated that the district is working within a 2 percent budget cap and that the new school security staff positions which include health benefits amounts to $411,611. Because school districts in the state must operate within a 2 percent cap on the tax levy, this kind of expense cannot be accomplished within that cap, which is why Jackson voters had to make a decision on the hiring through the special ballot question.
According to the school district, a home assessed at the township average of $327,046, will now see an increase in their school tax by about $10 per year. The passage will increase the school tax rate by $0.0031 – which is less than one-third of one penny on the tax rate.
The district uses security cameras, a locked door buzzer system, school resource officers, armed and unarmed security guards, and is in the final phase of installing security vestibules in all buildings.
“We want to provide another layer of security to make our schools as safe as we can for our students and staff. This is a work in progress,” Genco said. Some of the six security guards who will be added will be carrying concealed weapons.
“We believe these positions are necessary,’’ Genco said previously.
The question’s approval will also result in a permanent increase to the district’s tax levy which means that voters will not be asked to approve it each year – it will be part of the budget moving forward and the funds approved must be used to fund these positions only.