$241 million Hoboken school referendum voted down 2-1 at the polls in special election


The $241 million Hoboken school referendum was voted down at the polls during today’s special election, getting defeated decisively by a margin of about 2-1, according to tallies from the Hudson County Clerk’s Office.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

With all 42 districts reporting, 5,401 voters opposed the measure (no), with 2,847 voting in favor (yes), according to the HCCO, including 1,044 votes opposing the measure and 593 votes for it via vote-by-mail ballots.

The larger than expected voter turnout clearly aided those opposing the bond effort, who had a fully loaded get out the vote effort on the streets before the polls opened at 6 a.m. this morning

The anti-referendum group, which ranged from community members to officials from the local Republican party, opposed the measure since they said the process was rushed –  about nine weeks notice – and actively sought to keep public input to a minimum.

The BOE scoffed at that notion, arguing their infrastructure hadn’t been upgraded in decades and that their projected enrollment numbers showed large increases for the next five years.

Nevertheless, that was not enough to convince the electorate that large amenities like a new football stadium, ice skating rink, black box theater, gym, and two auditoriums, among many other things, at a price tag of about a $496 annual tax increase were worth it.

The 30-year bond also would’ve come at 2.2 percent interest, making the final cost about $330 million.

On the municipal level, Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Council members-at-Large Emily Jabbour, Jim Doyle, and Joe Quintero, as well as 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, all backed the referendum, while 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos came out against it.

“I take no pleasure in what took place the last few months with the way this process played out. It’s extremely unfair the way the BOE disseminated information, and hopefully going forward, the Hoboken residents have a longer runway for having the voices of the students and parents heard,” Ramos said over the phone.

“My door and my inbox is open to move this process forward with as many stakeholders as possible.”

With the loss, the board of education cannot post a new school plan for at least one calendar year.

“This was a tough election for Hoboken around a critically important issue – our students. Every one of us wants to see our students thrive,” added Fisher.

“I hope we can work together as a community and support the BOE on an amazing plan we can all get behind next year. Thank you to everyone who came out and voted and advocated on all sides of this important issue. Democracy is grounded in debate.”

Late last night, Bhalla called for a thoughtful and respectful debate going forward.

“Tonight the voters have spoken. While the will of the voters has made it clear that the Board of Education’s current proposal for the new high school will not move forward, I sincerely believe that the effort to improve our public schools will continue. I thank each and every resident who went to the polls to make their voices heard, and those who spoke up, and engaged in thoughtful, civil debate on both sides of the issue,” he said in a statement.

“With the vote now over, it is my hope that stakeholders will work on a revised plan collaboratively, that will meet the needs of our growing school population, and reflect resident feedback … I truly believe for Hoboken and our children, the best is yet to come.”


Editor’s note: This story was updated with new tallies from the Hudson County Clerk’s Office and a comment from Mayor Ravi Bhalla..

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/hcvcp/public_html/wp-content/themes/Hudson County View/includes/wp_booster/td_block.php on line 353


  1. A huge win for the Hoboken taxpayer and anyone with common sense. This plan was a non starter from the get go. Christine Johnson needs to be fired as she lied to the public and at least for a year the spending purse of Ravi and his army of Ravi bots is curtailed.

    This is big defeat for Ravi as he thought he could sneak this one through, even some of his supporters turned away from this kerfuffle/boondoggle/monstrosity.

    Special mention to Phil Cohen who once again shows he has no fiscal restraint and is all in with Ravi’s expenditures including a business administrator that is barely in the workforce and is making $200k per year in charge of $100 plus million dollar budget. The same business administrator that worries about whether a NHSA board member gets a five year or one year term rather than doing his actual job.

    Again a real win for real Hoboken!

  2. The shear arrogance.
    The secret meetings.
    The shady deals.
    The threats to opponents by trustees like A.McG.
    The refusal to listen to the public by Dr J.
    The lemmings like Phil Cohen, Emily Jabbour and the most outrageous , never did anything for our town Jie Quintero …
    They thought they were cute, they thought the were more clever….
    Guess what, this town has the most educated population than any other in the state- and unlike Dr Johnsons students scores, the voters here can do math!
    DrJohson, her cohort Tim Calligy and all the facilities committee need to be warned, pull this again and you’re all going to be fired.

    This is our town
    This is not Dr Johnsons, The NJEA’s, The Construction Union’s or a bunch of out of town employees

  3. This is on all of you as well!
    Doyle won’t even approve a house that’s more than 4 floors near a park for fear of casting shadows and yet he was support this 100 ft tall building
    Lying to us stating it was 4 stories when the truth was it was equal to 9 or 10

    They need to go, there needs to be real candidates next time

    We need to run board of education slates and ward candidates

    5th ward : Phil you’re outta here

    3rd Ward: Russo your cute fence sitting was obvious – there’s enough condos in your ward to overwhelm church towers
    ( that FBI tape is an indelible image )

    6th Ward: Jen…. What a disappointment !
    You worried more about upsetting yourself friends by silence!

    1st Ward: why even mention this traveling clown show AKA Mike DeFusco… too busy “living” in Croatia while thinking we don’t notice his fake zoom backgrounds.
    Me DeFusco resign now

    Ramos and Fisher are Heroes to Hoboken taxpayers!

    Pavel, Joe Branco, Paul, Ian, Kevin, Cheryl, Mary and so many more

  4. There will be a 10 am vigil this morning for the Yes voters today
    Bring your soy candles
    Wear Burberry scarves ( it’s cold)
    Yoga mats suggested…
    Feel free to double park your land rovers
    along park Ave as mayor bhalla will waive tickets
    Men, wear your Rugby jerseys
    Hosted by Mr Clark

  5. Bhalla and the BOE should issue a joint apology for wasting time and money on this along with a year of our children’s future!

    The tens of thousands of dollars that were blown on this nonsense – mail in ballots and other special election expenses, not to mention the vote yes/vote no campaigns could have been donated to HHS for the basics that they are lacking.

      • I think it was about a million dollars. I was told it was in that range. I had asked that question too at one of the board meetings. The Mount Vernon Group out of Boston worked on it since 2019. The architects Frank and Eric were also at the meetings and I spoke with them both extensively. They were cock sure the referendum would pass when I said that the voters would not agree to their design.

        • It was one of the ugliest new high schools I have seen, these “Architects” had no design style or taste. It was a mash up of poor soviet/ east Germany architecture combined with some union city high school elements. What a mess!

  6. This was also the dream child of former Russo lead operative Timothy Calligy. The highly paid resident of Clock Towers and low rent, long closed list apartments.

    Could only imagine he would probably retire from the BOE with a nice parachute, then go work for the contractors of this project.

    No proof, but here in Hudson Co/Hoboken, these types of deals run rampant.
    Just imagine what you can buy at the beach ( or Jersey City -or Denville) with that pension plus second career?