Following Gov. Chris Christie's recent approval of a law allowing local school districts the ability to move school elections from April to November, the Morris School District has just about a month to decide whether or not to take the governor up on this newly-enacted legislation.
Board of Education candidate applications are currently due by 4 p.m. Feb. 27. However, were the Morris School District to decide to move elections to the general election date in November, that could change.
Also, what would change would be whether or not voters were able to vote on the district's annual budget. Under the legislation, a district that has moved its annual school election to November would not require voter approval for a base budget, but any proposal to exceed the 2 percent tax levy cap would be presented for voter approval in November.
And, what if a budget did exceed the cap and had to go up for a vote, and was rejected? "If it's rejected, there would be a scramble if we have employed people for a quarter of the year already," Superintendent of Schools Thomas Ficarra said at the Monday Board of Education meeting. "It's quite a significant change."
While no decision was made at the meeting, several board members, including Peter Gallerstein, expressed concern of the potential politicization of what is supposed to be a non-political board. "I've enjoyed that we have been separate from that political process," he said. "It gives us a level of independence. The only thing thought of by board members is the educational system, not the political system."
Board of Education member Ann Rhines noted other boards she has seen at state school conferences have turned political, a process she said "has been ugly."
"Keeping politics out of the board is something to consider," Ficarra said.
Others, like board member Leonard Posey, were more concerned about any potential costs associated with the move.
Others still, such as board member Angela Rieck, have said they have heard that a school election in November simply "doesn't seem right," she said.
Board members Nancy Bangiola and Lisa Pollack both suggested getting public input, with Pollack saying a Town Hall meeting might be the best way to vet the subject.
But, there's not much time before the Morris School District has to make a decision, one way or the other.
"What would a ballot in November look like," Pollack asked.
"Would you have to choose a party line," Ficarra asked.
"I would guess not ... I hope not," Posey said.