BOE election moved to November

| 25 Oct 2012 | 01:16

School board elections will be moved to November beginning in 2013 after the West Milford Board of Education voted Monday night to shift the yearly elections from April to November.

The change to a November board of education election comes after the board originally voted earlier this year to keep elections in April. Last week, board President David Richards proposed revisiting the issue, which resulted in a second vote approving the move.

The change to November allows the district to adopt a budget without a public vote if any tax levy increase is kept under the 2 percent cap set by the state.If the levy surpasses the 2 percent cap, a public vote is required.

Residents will now elect their board of education trustees in November. This vote extends the terms of service for Richards and trustees Donna Richards and James Foody from the former May 2013 expiration to January 2014.

The school board elections must remain in November for four years before it can be switched back.

Public comments

The residents who spoke on the subject were against moving the vote to November and urged the board not to.

Resident Doris Aaronson said it would provide for less communication and interaction between candidates and residents, cause “massive confusion” for the public between the town council and board of education candidates, overwhelm the public with additional road signs, and cause confusion between the municipal and school budgets.

Gary Steele also opposed the change.

“One of the things about allowing people to vote on budgets is that when they pass them they are invested, and they are invested in the school system,” said Steele.

Steele said keeping the election in April would keep the focus on education, keep the election non-partisan, and keep direct control over the budget in the hands of the public.

He asked the board to postpone the vote until there was time for more public input. He said residents only had six days notice since the intention to vote on the matter was announced at the workshop meeting the week prior.

The board weighs in

“I think it’s in our better judgment to postpone it until next month,” said Foody. “It wouldn’t hurt anything to give the public more opportunity.”

Foody made a motion to continue with the April election and instead put the move to November in a referendum on the ballot and let the voters decide. The motion was not seconded.

Trustee Matt Conlon said that the arguments given to keep the election in April “belittle the people of West Milford.”

“The taxpayers still have a voice in running the schools by electing their representatives on the board of education, who hires the superintendent, who hires the staff, who sets the budget,” said Conlon. He said the board went through the process months ago with plenty of public input given on both sides of the issue and saw no reason to postpone the vote.

Trustee Wayne Gottlieb disagreed.

“The public should look to us, the school board, to safeguard them by putting time and energy into the budget,” said Gottlieb. “I’m afraid that moving the election to November and effectively giving us a free pass to slam down or cram down 2 percent tax increases in fact is going to work against that.”

School board member Greg Bailey said he didn’t understand why there was so much “angst” surrounding the proposed change. Nearly 80 percent of school districts in New Jersey already made the change, he said. It would work the same as with the municipal or county budget - if voters don’t like what is being done, they have the option to vote out the representatives and elect new ones. He said the board should “craft a thorough budget,” working within or even under the 2 percent tax levy cap.

The vote was 6-3, with Kevin Babbitt, Inga Koeppe, Donna Richards, Bailey, Conlon, and Dave Richards in favor of moving the elections to November; trustees Foody, Gottlieb and Marilyn Schultz opposed it.

What do you think? Should the school board have kept their election in April or moved it to November? Go to and be part of the conversation.