To take the next steps on deciding if the West Morris Regional High School district should further regionalize, dissolve, or stay as is, a feasibility study is necessary to assimilate all the educational and monetary consequences.
The mayors of four of the municipalities that make up the regional district have agreed to kick in $10,000 each from their 2012 budgets to fund that study, which leaves them approximately $10,000 short.
Mayors Ken Short of Washington Township, Bill Cogger of Chester Township, Bob Davis of Chester Borough, and Neil Henry of Mendham Borough have been working together for eight months to find an equitable solution to disproportionate spending problem in the regional district based on property values. They are looking to Mendham Township Mayor Sam Tolley to join the team.
“We’re a team,” Short said. “A basketball team has five players, if you play with four it doesn’t work.”
When the mayors began working together after a , Mendham Township’s mayor was Frank Ciopettini. During the township’s 2012 organization meeting, Sam Tolley was appointed to lead the municipality.
Those four participating mayors came together and asked the New Jersey Department of Education to give a presentation explaining the facts and figures behind making a change to the regional district. The presentation was held on Thursday, Feb. 23 at Mendham High School.
Moderating the event was former Mendham Township School district superintendent Gerald Vernotica, who is now an associate professor at Montclair State University. Chris Emigholz, who works in the legal affairs division of the Department of Education, led the presentation along with Morris County Schools business administrator Ralph Goodwin.
The presentation, at its root, gave three funding options: keep the district’s funding formula as is, based on property taxes paid; move to a per pupil funding system; or create a hybrid approach including both. The presentation also addressed the possibility of expanding the regional district or having municipalities withdraw from it.
Moving to do anything but keep it the same, though, would require a feasibility study, according to Vernotica.
“This process will take five mayors,” said Short at the end of the presentation. “I’m asking that five municipalities participate. We have to work together, and I’m asking that we all come together and do this for our children.”
Short said the participating mayors have reached out to Tolley, and that he has reached out to them as well, but there has been no working relationship.
“Over these past eight months,” said Davis, “We’ve grown to work together. We work well together, we trust each other. I’m going to close tonight by formally inviting Sam Tolley to join us.”
With the budgets for 2012 due to the governor by March 9, Mayor Tolley has to decide whether to get off the bench, or force the team to forfeit.
This story is posted on both Long Valley and Mendham-Chester Patch.