Open Letter to the Board of Education:

Members of the Board and Dr. LaSusa:

I understand that the Board of Education of the School District of the Chathams is again considering moving the annual school board election from April to November. I also understand that it is permitted to do so unilaterally (i.e. without voter approval) because of legislation that became effective in 2012 (Public Law 2011, Chapter 202). I further understand that the Board anticipates continuing its discussions concerning this item at its next scheduled meeting on Monday 8/31/15.

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Overview Comments

If the election is moved to November, I understand that the voters would elect Board members at that time but would no longer have the right to vote on the annual school district operating budget, subject to certain considerations involving the 102 percent cap.

I oppose changing the election date from April to November because I value the right to vote on the annual operating budget in addition to voting for Board members. I also understand that there are valid reasons and tradeoffs for considering moving to November and giving up the right to vote (e.g. savings of $10-20K or thereabouts on cost of separate April election, potentially more voter engagement/interest in November scenario, voters still protected by 102 percent cap).

I respectfully disagree with President Weber’s recent public comments that “…this [the decision re whether to move to November or stay in April] is a Board decision.” Even if I personally preferred a move to November, I believe on principle that this decision should be made by the voters via a Public Question (referendum) rather than by the Board unilaterally.

I therefore request that the Board arrange for the following question to be submitted to the voters at the general election scheduled to be held on Tuesday 11/3/15:

  • “Do the voters approve moving the date of the School District of the Chathams’ annual school election to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, to be held simultaneously with the general election?”

Referendum to Change the Election Date

The Board should arrange for the aforementioned Public Question to be submitted to the voters at the Tues 11/3/15 general election

  • While the Board is statutorily permitted to make this decision unilaterally, and although Boards of Education in most other jurisdictions in New Jersey have unilaterally switched to November without apparent subsequent voter backlash, the Board should nevertheless exercise discretion and good judgment and submit this question to the voters before making a final decision.

  • The Board is elected by the voters to oversee the School District of the Chathams on behalf of the voters.By terminating the right of the voters to vote on the budget for at least the next four years, the Board would be acting outside of its mandate. I believe that the granting of this statutory authority by the legislative and executive branches of NJ state government was a questionable and misguided public policy decision. By acting unilaterally, the Board would be further contributing to this misguided public policy.

  • The voters deserve to be heard directly on such an important issue. There is no excuse to do otherwise (i.e. because the decision to move to November 2016 doesn’t need to be made until approximately Jan-Feb 2016, the Board can view the results of a Public Question in November 2015 and incorporate that information into its decision-making process).

The deadline is end-of-business on Friday 9/4/15 for an e-mail submission to the Morris County Clerk of a request to place a Public Question on the ballot for the general election on Tues 11/3/15. I understand from conversations with the Morris County Clerk’s office that such request typically takes the form of a resolution. The Board would appear to have sufficient time to adopt a resolution (presumably at its meeting on Mon 8/31/15) and submit such resolution to the Morris County Clerk in a timely fashion.

Overriding Principle

The right to vote is fundamental to our democratic process. Any decision which impacts the right to vote should be made those directly impacted (i.e. the voters, via their decision on a Public Question, whatever that decision may be) rather than by some other body (i.e. the Board of Education).

Thank you for your consideration.

Stewart Carr