The investigation of a school district reconfiguration and possible changes to the tax formula will be pursued after elected officials voted to move forward in seeking a change to the Western Morris region’s school structure.
Mayors, committeepersons, school board presidents and vice presidents, and superintendents–25 in total–from Washington Township, the Chesters and Mendhams came together on Tuesday night at Mendham High School for the first-ever education summit.
The marathon meeting, which lasted more than four hours and included nearly 100 audience members to start, was moderated by former education commissioner Dr. William Librera. After many members of the panel made their stance known on a variety of issues and heard from the public, the group voted by majority to look into the possibility of two separate kindergarten through 12 school districts: one serving Washington Township, with the other serving both Chesters and Mendhams.
Also being considered for purposes of reconfiguration is a possibility brought forth by Mendham Township resident Greg Quam during the meeting, which proposed Washington Township to have one K-12 district, keep both K-8 districts serving the Chesters and Mendhams, and regionalize those four municipalities for one high school, serving grades nine through 12.
The group also voted by majority to come up with a variation of models of tax allocation to see how it would affect all five municipalities. Variations on altering the formula to split between per pupil cost and property tax (which is the current setting) will be studied and considered.
Members of the panel grew concerned that all the work would lead to conducting a feasibility study, which would cost tens of thousands of dollars to the municipalities involved.
James Button, the Mendham Township representative to the West Morris Regional Board of Education, spoke to the panel and said that he met with both Governor Chris Christie and acting Education Commissioner Chris Serf recently. Button said that after explaining the region’s situation to them, Cerf said, repeatedly, that he would “take care of” a feasibility study, if it came to that.
The group did not set a date or setting for a follow up meeting, and Librera recommended that nothing be set until all information becomes available.