Regional Board OKs Nov. Election Move (Video)
Chester, Mendham Twp. representatives oppose change.
The West Morris Regional School District board of education voted on Monday to change its election from April to November.
The move to join the general election is now locked in place for the next four years. Switching dates from April to November was designed to prompt higher voter turnout, but it also allows the school board to automatically adopt a proposed budget as long as it stays under the state-mandated tax cap without the public voting on it.
Excluding the public from the vote was an issue with Mendham Township representative James Button and Chester representative Marcia Asdal, who opposed the resolution.
“I’m reluctant to take away the right of taxpayers to vote anywhere two-thirds of their property taxes go,” said Button.
“I’ll wave the flag and pass out the apple pie,” said Asdal. “I’m opposed to taking away the ability to vote. We should be able to go a different route than taking away votes.”
The way the current law is structured, the vote would be excluded unless a board’s proposed budget exceeds the cap. In that instance, a special question is placed on the ballot allowing voters to approve or deny the proposal.
Board president Cristen Forrester said that greater voter participation is a major factor in moving the election.
“[April] gives us about 12-percent turnout,” Forrester said. “There is between 30 and 50-percent turnout during midterm and general elections.”
Because municipal and county budgets are not voted on, Forrester said she feels residents may take their anger of high taxes out on school budgets, voting them down for the sake of saying no.
Button was so opposed to the resolution, that he went as far as to make a motion tabling the measure until a further date. His motion was voted down 7-2 by the board. Asdal was the lone supporter.
Board members extend tenure
The board, representing the municipalities of Washington Township, the Chesters, and the Mendhams, is able to act independently of its sending districts under a bill signed into law by Governor Chris Christie giving school boards the option to make the move.
Moving the election also extends sitting board members’ terms an additional eight months.
At the end of 2011, it was determined by the Morris County Executive Superintendent that Chester Borough would receive a seat on the board, and bring down Washington Township’s representation from five members to four.
Up for election this year is David Lobron (Washington Township); Joseph Galayda (Washington Township); Tom Richar (Washington Township); and John Meyer (Washington Township).
Just like a general election, when a school board member is now elected in November, he or she will not be seated until January of the following year. Chester Borough’s representation will not be active on the board until 2013.
By moving the election, the district will save more than $15,000 annually according to board secretary Doug Pechanec.
All school boards in New Jersey are required to make their decision–whether to keep an April election of move to join general elections in November–by Feb. 17, and the action taken would be set for the next four years, according to the bill.
The board’s next scheduled meeting is Monday, Feb. 13.