Verona voters went to the polls on Tuesday, November 5 and sent one incumbent back to the Board of Education while approving both school improvement referendums and the municipal question for an open space trust fund by wide margins.
There were four candidates running for two seats on the Board of Education this year, and unofficial results have incumbent Jim Day leading the field, followed by challengers Sara Drappi and Lynn Halsey, and fellow incumbent Glenn Elliott. The win, if confirmed, will send Day to his third term on the BOE. Day led all other candidates by a wide margin in every district except districts 1, the Claridge House, and 8, which votes at Brookdale. Both of those districts were won by Drappi, who also appears to be leading Day in mail-in ballots.
“Thank you from Minneapolis,” Day said by email early Wednesday morning. He also posted a video thanking voters on his campaign Facebook page.
Drappi is a Verona native who attended Verona public schools through 12th grade. She has a bachelors degree from Indiana University-Bloomington and a masters in education and a certificate in special education from Montclair State University. She has been a special education teacher for eight years and was one of the leaders of last year’s push to get full-day kindergarten approved.
Halsey left a career as a director of sales operations for NBC Universal to obtain a master’s degree in social work. She is a member of the Verona Municipal Alliance Committee and the Laning SCA liaison. She strongly out-polled Elliot in districts 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10, but their results were close in other districts. Elliott, who is currently in fourth place, served on the BOE from 2004 to 2014 and again from 2016 to 2019.
“Congratulations Sara and Jim,” Halsey said by email Tuesday night. “My wonderful friend Sara will be an incredible asset to the board and I’m so excited to support her in this new venture. In addition to making the smart decision to elect Sara, voters also passed both referendum questions, guaranteeing that our children will get to learn in safer and more comfortable conditions. I am thrilled with these results.”
Elliott also thanked voters Tuesday evening. “I want to thank everyone that has supported me, not only in this election, but during my entire time on the Board of Education,” he said. “Special thanks to my wife and family, who’ve put up with seemingly endless meetings and phone calls. It’s been an incredible journey! Serving the people of Verona, the Verona school district and our incredible staff has been a tremendous honor. Congratulations to Jim Day and Sara Drappi for their victory, and best wishes to Lynn Halsey. Onward and upward, there truly is more to do.”
Voters overwhelmingly approved the two referendums and the municipal ballot question seeking an open space trust fund. The two referendums, which totaled $27.7 million, will fund a wide variety of repairs at all six schools, including all new roofs, and an expansion of air conditioning in the district. The vote was 2,224 to 1,281 for referendum #1 and 2,057 to 1,423 for referendum #2.
The open space trust fund was approved by 2,115 Yes votes to 1,351 No. That means that Verona will add a tax of two cents per $100 of assessed valuation on all Verona properties. The resulting funds can be used to either buy property to prevent it from being developed or to fund the maintenance of existing open space, such as the re-turfing of Centennial field, which will need to be done soon.
Turnout was strong across all 11 voting districts in Verona. There were scattered complaints of voting machine problems, but Verona’s municipal clerk called in Essex County’s technicians, who found no problems.
It is still too early to call the race for state Assembly. Verona resident Laura Fortgang and her fellow Democrat Christine Clarke won Verona and Essex County, but much of the 26th legislative district lies in Morris County, which has voted strongly Republican in the past. Just before 10 p.m., with about one-third of the Morris County vote in, incumbent BettyLou DeCroce held a narrow lead over fellow incumbent Jay Webber. There are no votes posted yes for West Milford, which is part of the 26th, but in Passaic County.
This is a developing story and will be updated as results come in.