Move School Elections to November, Superintendent Says
Noting his neutrality on issue last year, Jorden Schiff now says district should change.
After a decision in December by the Montgomery Board of Education to move its school election to November, Hillsborough is now the only Somerset County district with April elections, Superintendent Jorden Schiff said at Monday's board of education meeting.
And after outlining the pros and cons of changing the voting to November, Dr. Schiff said it was his recommendation now to change the annual school vote to November.
"Last year, I was neutral on this issue," he said, and noted several reasons why he thought the board should approve such a change this year.
His reasons included the higher voter participation in school voting as evidenced by this year's turnouts in the districts which changed, as well as the benefits to the district to be able to move forward with planning earlier.
Dr. Schiff said the district could be hampered in its ability to hire "the best and brightest" staff since budgets wouldn't be approved until April—or even later in May, if voters turn down a proposed budget.
"We will be almost two months behind other districts," he noted.
The delay could also be costly for district projects, with Hillsborough again at the end of line for bidding and awarding construction projects.
The district spent about $20,640 total for the board election in April 2012, but since Hillsborough is now the only district scheduled for an April vote this year, Dr. Schiff said the Board of Elections has advised the district the cost for the election will be at least $5,000 higher this year.
As for the reasons not to move the election, Dr. Schiff noted the change ends voter input on budgets meeting the 2 percent tax increase cap but added few voters participate in the April election.
He also said some are concerned about the potential for school elections to be politicized, but he added the board members are already required to avoid allowing political parties or positions to influence their actions.
And as far as the vote serving to provide a check on board spending and budgeting plans, Dr. Schiff noted the state's already strict controls on school budgets.
"It's very interesting, and I'm not sure very many people know this, is that New Jersey is the only state in the entire country where we have annual audits, elected boards of education, executive county superintendents who can red line budgets...and a 2 percent cap on the levy on top of that," he said. "Plus, a school biard election. No other state has that level of oversight on it."
The recommendation was forwarded to the board's Operations Committee for review, with a possible recommendation to the board later.