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Cherry Hill voters completely reject $211 million bond, dealing a defeat to BOE

Cherry Hill residents gathered at Estelle Malberg Alternative School to discuss the bond referendum.

Courtesy of The Sun

Cherry Hill residents gathered at Estelle Malberg Alternative School to discuss the bond referendum.

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Voters have rejected the Board of Education’s request to create a bond that would help with infrastructure repairs and other capital projects in the district, according to preliminary data from Camden County published by Cherry Hill Public Schools.

The bond election, divided into three parts, was over two years in the making. The closest margin from the preliminary results – 53 percent voting no and 47 percent voting yes – was in the first question, which would have implemented changes to security infrastructure in all Cherry Hill schools. The first question would have needed to pass for any of the other questions to go into effect.

The Board of Education, per a post on the district website, will meet on Dec. 18 to decide the details of a possible second special election. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Meloche told members of the Cherry Hill East PTA last month that if the bond were not to pass, that the board would strongly consider putting the question out to voters again in April 2019.

A strong no-vote campaign, complete with lawn signs and abundant discussion on the Cherry Hill United Facebook group, focused both on the marked increase in taxes the bond would impose on Cherry Hill residents and repeatedly brought up the apparently untrue claim that no security consultants worked with the district on the bond. Others took issue with the district choosing not to build new schools to replace the district’s aging, half-century-old buildings.

“A clear message has been sent. People want results and responsible spending. Clear planning and item line explanations. Real security. [Competent] contractors. Get on with it,” wrote Cherry Hill United member Scott Soffen in a post to the group’s page.

The campaign for the bond, led by members of the Board of Education and Meloche, and supported by East BOE representatives Julia Langmuir (‘19) and Craig Robinson (‘19), focused on the need for new infrastructure and promised HVAC improvements, security measures, auditorium renovations and new stadium lights at Cherry Hill East, as well as other projects throughout the district.

“I strongly believe this can be the beginning of the healing process to bring our community together. I’m more confident now than ever we will work together in a meaningful transparent way as a community to address the needs of our educational facilities,” wrote incoming BOE member David Rossi to Cherry Hill United’s page early Wednesday.

The Cherry Hill Public School District was not immediately available for comment.

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Cherry Hill voters completely reject $211 million bond, dealing a defeat to BOE