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FOREST ALONE IN K-8 DISTRICT RACE

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Ben Forest has an excellent chance of keeping his seat on the Red Bank Board of Education in tomorrow’s election: he’s the only candidate on the ballot.

Unfortunately for the board, there are three open seats; two other members have retired, saying they were too busy to serve again. Unless the positions are filled by write-in candidates, board president Janet Jones will appoint replacements.

Although he doesn’t seem to need a platform, Forest generously obliged us with one anyway: “Great schools run efficiently.”

Forest’s recent claim to fame is a proposal to offer Chinese language instruction in the schools, an idea that generated some heat when it emerged recently. He says it makes sense for the K-8 district to provide alternatives to Spanish because so many of the students already speak Spanish fluently. Besides, Chinese is “a difficult language, but if they start young, it’s easier,” he says.

A 44-year-old computer consultant and former journalist, Forest lives on Locust Avenue with his wife, environmental activist and Westside Community Board President Amy Goldsmith. They have two children in the public schools — Kara, 7 and Zach, 9.

Forest says he understands why people would not be clamoring for the board slots. They’re unpaid and come with no medical benefits, unlike the borough council positions. But it’s important work, he believes. “It’s not as prestigious as being on the council, but our budget actually handles more money than the council’s,” he says.

Speaking of which, voters will also be asked Tuesday to approve a local schools tax levy of $11.3 million, up $271,745 from the 2006-2007 school year, or 1 cent per $100 of assessed property valuation.

For the owner of an average home in Red Bank, valued at $404,980, the annual local school tax increase would be $40.50.

Also on the ballot is the budget for the Red Bank Regional High School, which proposes raising $16.6 million from property owners in the sending districts of Red Bank, Little Silver and Shrewsbury.

For the owner of a Red Bank home assessed at the average, taxes for the regional district would increase $6.94 for the year. In Little Silver, the owner of the average home assessed at $498,300 would pay a $50.45 annual increase. Shrewsbury homeowners assessed at the average $388,000 would see an increase of $115.

Three of Red Bank’s allotment of five seats on the board are up for election, with three incumbents running: Board president Leslie Taylor, of Prospect Avenue; Emily Doherty of South Street, and Ronald Horton of Chapin Road.

Frank Neary Jr. of Birch Drive in Shrewsbury is running to fill a one-year unexpired term allotted to that borough.

—By LINDA G. RASTELLI

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