Patch reached out to the ten candidates running for three open Middletown Board of Education seats and asked them questions about themselves and their vision for the community.
The terms of Board President Chris Aveta and members Vincent Brand and John Bennett, Jr. expire this year. Bennett joined the board last year, filling a one-year unexpired term. All incumbents are in the running for their seats.
The seven challengers are: Bob Banta, Richard G. Campbell, Michael Craig, Rocco DelGuercio, Michael A. Donlon, Anastasia Millicker and Michael J. Ostrander, Jr.
Polls open on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Below are responses from candidate Bob Banta:
Can you please provide a brief bio, including how long you’ve lived in Middletown and your ties to the community?
Married, father of 3 children; oldest child is currently a Junior at High School North; middle child will be a Freshman at H.S. North Fall of 2013, and youngest to follow 4 years after. Has been a Middletown resident and taxpayer since 1993. Owner of Banta Translation Services and Middletown firefighter since 2002, among other civic involvement.
What are your motivations for running for elected office?
I am highly motivated to seek re-election to the Middletown Board of Education. I had been previously elected to the position but reluctantly made a decision to resign shortly after taking it due to personal health issues, as I was not sure how those issues would impact my ability to make meetings at a time the other board members needed to accomplish the task of securing a Superintendent for the district.
What new ideas do you have for Middletown schools?
My new ideas are not necessarily new, however they are very important to drive us forward. I believe we should be focused on the education of our students first. Getting back to basics is a new concept for some of the current board members. I would truly like to see additional staff and key personnel be reinstated that were lost due to budget cuts and find the money in the current budget for education as the current board was able to find for new turf fields which was not part of the budget. I would like to try to limit the number of students we have to send out of the district to an absolute minimum and find out what we need to do to meet the needs that we are not currently, and keep those children in Middletown. Perhaps an investment in education for those children would allow us to save money for the district and bring in additional dollars as other districts would then pay Middletown to send their students to our programs.
What challenges do Middletown schools currently face, and what do you plan to do to address them?
The challenges we face as a district in Middletown are many. The need to have a comprehensive study on the impact of possible future housing growth in Middletown and its impact on our schools is long overdue. If elected, I would make it a goal to have such a study done in real time, not over some long dragged out period, and insist that it allow for expansion beyond the current proposed new homes and housing units that have been proposed. I would ask our BA to conduct a survey of other districts that have similar spikes in increased pupil counts over the past 10 years and employ any best practice ideas that have worked with the least impact to the taxpayer. One of the other challenges we unfortunately face is having a united board that works well together. For some reason certain members have seemed to be motivated by personal agendas and have gotten downright hostile and disrespectful of each other at the public meetings. Having a unique ability to communicate and work well with others, I feel I can help the other board members reach the goals set forth and help the process move in a positive direction.
Property taxes are always a concern, especially in New Jersey. How can Middletown control taxes?
Property taxes are a concern for all of us as most of us feel they are too high already. The best way to keep them from going out of control is by utilizing all possible means to save the district money. Some of these include, but are not limited to, continuing with and increasing the amount of shared services with the township. There are many budgeted items that are fixed items and recurring costs associated with the running of the district, however, there are also areas that can be looked at a little more closely to see if all the dollars are needed in those areas or if there aren't ways to save without sacrificing services. If elected, I would propose that the district look at not only the savings, but if there would be earning potential if we were to undertake a solar energy conversion that included a possible solar farm of sorts to generate revenue. I would not propose such a project at the expense of increased taxes, but would task the BA to seek out state or federal grants to fund it. That would be a task for a Superintendent worthy of a contractual bonus!
What accomplishments in your private life translates positively to a position in public office?
I would have to say that my running my own business for many years, coupled with all the experience of the various jobs I've held, allows me to bring a unique skill set to the board. The most valuable asset I bring is my experience as a volunteer, in many areas, and my tireless commitment to my friends and neighbors to make sure we are providing the best possible educational environment for our children, and striving to make sure that not one dollar of our hard earned tax money is wasted.