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BOE Will Make Decision on School Election Next Week

In the meantime, the board is still seeking input from the public.

One week from today, the board of education will decide and, in the process, remove voters’ ability to vote on the school budget.

Board President Don Mishler said the board is taking a number of factors into consideration as it weighs the pros and cons of making the change.

On the pro side, according to a newsletter on the district website, the district spends roughly $20,000 annually to hold elections in April. While the district would be responsible for chipping in a share of the general election cost, it would certainly be less than $20,000. Also, moving the election to November would presumably increase voter turnout.

As for the cons, taking away voters’ ability to vote on the budget (as long as its under the 2 percent cap)—thereby removing the threat of a rejected budget—has the potential to impact how future boards approach the budget process.

“Will having the ability to achieve an automatic approval of a 2 percent increase diminish a board of education’s commitment to financial prudence?” the newsletter asks.  

For a complete list of the pros and cons (according to the district), view the PDF attached to this story.

School board candidate Brandon Pugh said if the board’s going to make the change, it should wait until next year since the campaign season has already begun for the April election.

“I can’t think of another election that’s been moved 6 months back in the middle of an election season,” Pugh told the board Tuesday night. “It’s more appropriate to consider this in November or December.”

“Unfortunately, the governor wasn’t thinking about you when he signed this,” Mishler responded.

While collectively the board has not taken an official stance, and most of the members kept their opinions to themselves, Board Member Kevin O’Sullivan said he prefers keeping the election in April.

“For the simple reason it’s the one time voters get to vote on the budget,” he said. “I feel like taxpayers have a good voice on that and I don’t want to take it away from them.”

The board meets Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week to interview in executive session. At 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, following the closed-door session, the board will take action on the proposed changes to the election. The board meets in the .

RANDYGTS January 26, 2012 at 02:00 PM
With all due respect to Kevin (and I really do appreciate the time he commits to this), the voters don't really have too much say over the budget. As long as the proposed budget is within the 2% cap, voters should be happy to leave this to the board and the district to allocate the money. The reality is that moving the election to November accomplishes two things: greater turnout for the election, and a reasonable amount of cost savings.
John K January 31, 2012 at 12:47 PM
I would prefer to have school board elections held concurrent with general elections. It will definitely increase voter turnout and participation along with saving the costs associated with duplicate elections. (While they're at it, they can do the same for fire district elections; currently hardly any residents take the time to vote in those contests.) The change will just mean that the ballots will look a little more complex: candidates for local, state, and national government listed according to their political parties, while school board and fire district candidates identified without regard to any party affiliations. As for the question of voters being able to vote yes or no on the school budget, the cap laws make that relatively meaningless. Furthermore, the school budget can sometimes become the focus of people's negative attitudes about government spending or taxes in general. Citizens do not have a chance to vote on town, county, state, or federal budgets (just on the officials who develop and pass them), so some voters will tend to take out their overall frustrations or dissatisfactions on the school budget. That is not fair to our town's public school children, teachers, and staff.
Donnerstag January 31, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Honestly, I have to agree with RC and Jk on this one. Probably a good happy medium could have been to have the BOE and fire elections on the primary date in June. But since it's a decision done at the state level, we can vote on everything in November. Thanks to our Governor Christie with having a 2% cap on school taxes, voting on the budget may not be that big of a deal. Manily, if this were moved to November then the town council would not need to get involved since no vote on the budget. It was just three years ago town council faced having meetings , we remember a pretty number of engaged meetings. And we agree to look for all ways to trim spending and if it saves $30 thousand, why not? But, I will stand back because this is up for the BOE to decide.

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