Board of Ed Moves Elections to November

The decision to move the election is at minimum a four-year commitment

When voters head to the polls this November, they'll be asked to choose between an additional set of candidates -- although those candidates will appear on a separate portion of the ballot. 

After two months of debating the short and long-term operational effects of switching school board elections to November, the Fair Lawn Board of Education voted Thursday to move the elections and eliminate the public's right to vote on under-cap school budgets.

School board elections must now be held in November for at least the next four years, as per the law, and currently serving board members will have their terms extended until November.

The decision came on the heels of last month's signing into law of a state bill that lets school districts, municipalities, or public voters decide whether they want to move school board elections from April to November. In addition to the change of date, districts that make the move eliminate the public's right to vote on school budgets within the state's 2 percent cap on tax increases.

From the outset, superintendent Bruce Watson has been a vocal proponent of moving the elections, but board members have been torn over how to proceed. In the end, however, all but Eugene Banta agreed that moving the elections was the right move.

The decision ultimately boiled down to the board's belief that the benefit of eliminating the public's ability to vote down school budgets within the 2 percent tax cap outweighed the potential partisanship that might infect the school board if elections coincided with those of municipal, county and state politicians.

"The positive of not having to worry about budgets is the overarching factor," said board member Joshua Gillenson, who couldn't attend the meeting but was kept on speakerphone throughout.

If a school budget is voted down, the borough council becomes responsible for selecting a dollar amount that the board must cut from its budget. The board must abide by the amount of money council asks it to cut, but can decide what specifically it will defund.

While the public can no longer vote down a budget within the state's 2 percent tax cap, the budget approval process remains the same in that a public budget hearing is still required.

The move of elections is expected to save the district a significant, albeit undetermined, amount of money. The district currently spends about $50,000 to hold the elections each April.

Tommy P February 18, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I fully understand the beauty of the law which enabled this was the carrot which allow school boards to raise taxes without a vote to move the elections to November. "The positive of not having to worry about budgets is the overarching factor," said board member Joshua Gillenson, The positive factor of knowing that you have a greater chance of being voted out of office is the overarching reason I support your decision. Joshua, you should resign immediately. Your role on the school board should not be to maximize the budget but to provide for the "Thorough and EFFICIENT" education of our children. When was the last time the school board actually voted to DECREASE taxes in Fair Lawn?


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