School board seeks public's input on moving election

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:28

    Will listen to comments before voting WEST MILFORD - The West Milford Board of Education wants to hear from the public before voting on a recently-passed measure in Trenton which would allow districts to move their annual school board and budget elections to November, with the possibility of eliminating the vote altogether if the budget comes in under the 2 percent cap. The item was on the agenda Tuesday night but board members felt it would be rushing if they voted on it without input from the public. Trustee Wayne Gottlieb said he read news reports that Teaneck and Wayne had voted already on this issue and changed their elections to November. He noted that Teaneck reportedly voted unanimously for the change just seven hours after Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill. The town of Wayne took the same action two days later. He said those votes gave the public no formal notice of the matter. “The general public was not at all informed of the impending vote on this matter which I think is very important,” said Gottlieb referring to Teaneck and Wayne. “This is something, especially in West Milford, where we have above average turnout at these votes. It's important.” “I think it’s important that the public know about this and if you have any comments please feel free to take the mic and voice your concerns,” said board President Dave Richards. Richards said moving the vote to November does a couple of things: the public loses the right to vote on the budget if the board keeps it under the 2 percent tax cap and it stays in November for four years. “If the board keeps the budget under the 2 percent levy, the public doesn’t vote on it. It passes automatically,” said Richards. “If we keep it the way it is now, you have the right to vote on the budget. That’s the main part. And if we change it to November, it stays for a four-year cycle.” Only one member of the public spoke about the legislation. Jim Rogers said moving the school election to November has very serious implications, including politicizing the board and taking away the public’s right to vote on the tax levy. He said a final vote on the issue this week “would be a disservice to the public” and encouraged the board to table the motion until February, giving the public an opportunity to become informed. Trustee John Aiello said he was opposed to moving the vote to November and wanted the board to pull the item from the agenda and not vote on it at all. He said he did not want people to give up the right to vote on the budget and thought the elections would become more politicized. A quick poll of the trustees showed all agreed they didn’t want to move the election except Barbara Carter. Gov. Chris Christie pushed for this legislation saying it would save money by combining the school election with the general election and would get greater participation. The board tabled the vote until they hear from the public at their Feb. 14 meeting. The board has until Feb. 24 to vote on the matter.