For now, the election when voters choose members of the Middletown Township Public Schools Board of Education will remain in November.
Over the past two weeks, members of the school board and members of the Middletown Township Committee expressed opposing views as to when the board of education election should be held.
In 2012, following the enactment of a state law which permitted the date of the annual school board election to be moved from April to the date of the general election in November, the school board made that change.
In connection with the change of the election date, residents no longer had the opportunity to vote on the school district’s annual budget.
As the Township Committee planned its Jan. 6 reorganization meeting, municipal officials prepared a resolution moving the date of the school board election from November back to April.
Township Committee members said state law permits them to take that action as long as they notify the school board. Officials said that with the change in the election date, residents would regain the opportunity to vote on the school district budget.
If voters rejected the budget put forth by the school board, the committee would have regained the right to review the budget and to certify a lower amount to be raised in taxes than the amount that had been proposed by the school board.
In response the committee’s planned Jan. 6 action, the school board called an emergency meeting for that morning during which members were prepared to pass a resolution stating their belief that the school board election should remain in November.
When the school board convened at Middletown High School North at 9 a.m., Township Committeeman Tony Fiore asked the board to table its resolution.
In return for doing so, Fiore said the governing body would follow suit at its meeting at 10 a.m. and table the resolution calling for the return of the school board election to April.
Fiore said the members of the Township Committee “intend to work with the board. I’m not here to opine on the merits of April or November … The Township Committee wants to present what our intentions are and what they never were.”
Fiore said that after the November 2018 election, he received requests from constituents to reconsider the date of the school board election.
“I didn’t even think this would be public until we had further discussion … I never expected to be speaking about this in January,” he told the school board.
After discussion, a majority of board members consented to Fiore’s request and tabled their resolution. An hour later, Township Committee members did the same with their resolution.
The resolution the Township Committee prepared, but tabled, stated that voters are “exempt from voter approval of increases to the (school district’s) general tax fund levy. Returning school board elections to April provides voters with a greater voice on a majority of their property tax bill.”
The resolution continued, stating, “by holding the annual school election during the November general election, school board candidates and education issues have become overshadowed by the concurrent elections for federal, state, county, and municipal offices…”
In response to a question from the Independent, Lester Taylor, the attorney who represents the school board, said if the Township Committee votes to move the date of the school board election from November to April, “the board will have options.”
“The spirit and the intent behind the issue (of moving the school board election from April to November) was an effort to save money and enhance voter participation,” Taylor said.
On Jan. 8, Mayor Anthony Perry said members of the Township Committee and school board would meet to discuss the matter further.
Perry said the matter was initially brought up during a shared services meeting when representatives of both boards regrouped during the week of Jan. 1. He said there was never an intention “to rush the decision” that would change the school board election date or to keep the date as is.
Perry said he was glad the matter arose at the shared services meeting and said both boards could now discuss the best course of action moving forward.