In the end, the decision to move school elections from April to November for the was passed by its board by only one vote.
Monday's board of education meeting, which was attended by the borough's mayor and administrator, was filled with plenty of discussion on the issue, as well as the borough council's vote to move the elections and resulting comments on online news sites.
TFBOE Approves the Move, Voting 5 to 4 in Favor
Members of the board of education debated the pros and cons of the switch, which also eliminated the annual school budget vote, before approving the resolution 5 to 4 at their Feb. 13 meeting.
Among the issues discussed were the potential costs or savings to the district; the implications of taking the vote away from the public; and the challenges of developing a budget for the school year if the cap needs to be exceeded and voted on in November.
"I love this discussion," said Board President Peter Karavites. "It's why we waited until tonight (to vote)."
Council members Susan Fisher, Bill Holobowski, Rob Mauro, Frank Pomilla (representing Shrewsbury Township) and Karavites voted in favor of the resolution. Nicole Alfano, Ken Hager, Lisa Lucas and Paul Ford were opposed to the election move. Karavites cast the deciding vote.
Municipalities have until Feb. 17 to decide whether to move elections to November and eliminate the annual vote on the school budget, provided it stays within a two-percent cap. The law was signed by the governor on Jan. 17.
Mayor and Boro Administrator Address Board's Concerns
TheBorough Council that "the Borough of Tinton Fall’s School District’s elections shall be moved to the November General Election," which vexed school board members, and its president in particular who questioned the borough's rush to vote.
Mayor Michael Skudera and Borough Administrator Gerald Turning attended the school board's meeting Monday night and disputed claims that their administration did not communicate with the board prior to the council's vote on Feb. 7.
Both Skudera and Karavites gave differing versions of the time line between the bill signing on Jan. 17 and the council's vote three weeks later. While the mayor said that Councilman Scott Larkin, who serves as liaison to the schools in the borough, "reached out to the school board several times," Karavites said that he had to initiate a call to Larkin. When he did speak to the councilman, Karavites said that Larkin was unaware that the council's resolution was usurping the board's decision instead of supporting the school district.
Karavites also disputed whether the borough's resolution was binding because as a regional district, the move would also need to be supported by Shrewsbury Township.
Alfano, who voted against the move, pointed out at the meeting that over the last two years, taxpayers have seen a $100,000 to $150,000 savings after the high school's budget was defeated and then trimmed by the borough council. Moving the election would eliminate the public's ability to vote on school budgets, Alfano said, and the possible savings.
Turning said to his fellow public officials during the meeting, "We're supposed to make it work, and I don't see it working."
Keep it off the Internet
An article on Patch last week about the BOE's reaction to the council's vote drew a few comments criticizing the borough.
"Don't blog on Patch," said Turning on Monday, adding that anyone who has a problem should call him directly instead of posting comments on news Web sites. "It doesn't serve the residents in this town."
"I don't want that," he continued, "not for my borough."