The vote this week to combine three small school districts in southern Hunterdon County was historic, the first formal merger approved in a state where home rule is almost sacrosanct in nearly 20 years. Whether it will set a precedent is another question.
By landslide margins, the voters of Lambertville, West Amwell, and Stockton approved a pair of referendums on Tuesday that effectively created a new South Hunterdon School district, starting in 2014.
Each of the three towns has its own elementary school, board, and administration. And each sends its students on to South Hunterdon Regional High School. All three of elementary schools will remain -- at least for now -- but the new district will be all under one administration and school board.
The turnout was pretty good for a school vote, at to 30 percent in some of the communities. The message was unequivocal: nearly nine in 10 voters supported regionalization. The unofficial tallies on the two measures – one to dissolve the existing districts and the other to create a new one -- were as follows:
• Question 1: 1,432 in favor; 230 against.
• Question 2: 1,435 in favor; 236 against.
Daniel Seiter, chairman of the South County Regionalization Committee that led the campaign, said it was a lesson in both perseverance and cooperation.“It takes very cooperative communities,” said Seiter, also president of the South Hunterdon High School board. “We started this in 2009 with a committee of board members, council members, and residents, and it was very collaborative. We wanted to be sure that everyone would be a winner.
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