January 04, 2019
NEW YEAR, SAME OLD BULLSHIT
'The Middletown Board of Education and Township Committee are now in a race to decide when you will vote for School Board Members with zero input from YOU'
First, I apologize for the vulgarity, but sometimes I am astonished at the lack of respect and trust the Township Committee and the Board of Education have for each other. If you thought a new year and new members would bring a change, think again.
It's no secret the BOE and the TC haven't always seen eye to eye. As I former BOE member and president myself, I've encountered the frustrations of trying to create common ground. The Middletown residents, however, have made it crystal clear that they want to see a better working relationship between the two entities to not only reduce taxes, but to keep the public better informed of issues that affect their families. And in turn, all the candidates who ran this year for both BOE and TC made 'working together' and 'transparency' a central platform of their campaigns.
So here's the latest beef as I see it...There have been passing statements made by members of the Township Committee since the election, that they felt the Board of Education elections should be returned to April. Here's where it gets a little complicated so bear with me while I give you some background...
-BOE elections are presently held in November. There are no party affiliations on the ballot and they are purposely sectioned away from party-specific positions on the physical ballot.
-November elections are directly tied to a 2% cap on the BOE's budget, meaning the BOE may not raise their overall budget by more than 2% in a given year thereby limiting any taxpayer increase. (There is a minor exception with banked cap.) The budget, in turn, does not have to be voted on by the public.
-We used to have BOE elections in April several years ago, but we moved them to November.
- Moving elections to April, would eliminate the cap of spending, and allow the BOE to present any increase they feel necessary with the codicil that is will now be voted on by the public. There were several budgets passed with increases up to 11% to the taxpayer when this was the case.
- If the budget does not pass, it would be turned over to the Mayor for revision.
Still with me? Great! At my last BOE meeting in December, these statements and/or rumors from the TC were addressed. Our attorney told the BOE (all in public and on video at the middletownk12.com website) that basically, whoever passes a resolution first gets to decide when these elections occur, (which seems ridiculous to me, but I digress). I advised my fellow BOE members, that although I did not trust the motivation for the TC's talk of this that they should reach out and try to work together as well as table the decision making until the two new BOE members were sworn in.
On January 2nd, the new BOE had a discussion about passing a resolution to prevent the move to April elections, as a number of BOE members felt strongly that the move was frivolous, among other reasons. There was also further talk of having the resolution prepared for the January 15th meeting, giving the public and the TC about 2 weeks to digest the idea and allow time for discussion with the TC.
Keep in mind here, as stupid as it sounds, whichever governing body passes their resolution first, wins this debate.
Fast forward less than 48 hours later...The TC sends the BOE their resolution to move the elections to April. No public discussion, as the BOE did. No input from the public, which the BOE did. They sent the resolution and informed them it would be voted on at the Township Committee Re-organization meeting on...(wait for it)...Sunday morning....Seriously? The first official act of this new TC is to undermine the BOE and dictate to them, without any time for input or public opinion, when their elections should be.
Not to be outdone , the BOE quickly reacted by sending public notice with intent of their own of passing a resolution keeping the elections in November. The BOE meeting is 9 am Sunday. The TC Meeting is 10 am Sunday morning....Neither meeting is a particularly accessible time of the week for residents to get involved or give residents enough time to learn about the issue, but both are open to the public.
So the pettiness, blame-game and political battle will continue into the new year for the TC and the BOE. The audacity of the TC to presume to know what's best for the BOE without sufficient consultation with them is alarming. There are two sides to the timing of school board elections, and I see validity in both, as I outline below, but to push this through quickly, without public input or even school board input is a deceptive and arrogant move by the TC. My suggestion to you is to share this information and write the TC and BOE and demand your input be counted and transparency be a priority. Otherwise, we will continue to be dictated to and told our voices are obsolete. It is sheer hubris that allows our elected officials in the TC to presume issues are too complicated or too unimportant for our input. And I find it terribly ironic that our TC spouts about the importance of keeping taxes down, while simultaneously voting for measures that cost us more money, and have the potential to raise taxes exponentially.
Here's my take on the pros and cons of April/November Elections....
-Likely a more informed voter base, as school elections draw out those who know the candidates, with the possibility of less votes based on presumed political affiliation
-Public input in the budgeting process for the BOE. The Budget Ad Hoc Committee (of which I was a member) was designed to help inform and sell the public on what their money is being spent on.
-The public votes on whether to approve the budget.
-The additional cost of approximately $40,000 to run the elections separately will be assessed to the BOE, who has already lost $1.3 million to state cuts.
-previously elected BOE members to 3 year terms will be cut approximately 8 months, undermining the will of previous voters.
-Budgets have the potential to skyrocket if approved by the turnout of residents.
-Voter turnout is substantially lower
-If a full day of voting, another day added to the school year, if school's close.
-If a 4-9pm voting window, the possibility on minimal voter turnout broadens and could be considered voter suppression.
-2% cap is lifted on BOE budget.
If the Budget fails during April elections, the mayor would be responsible for revisions and quite honestly, I believe this is why this nonsensical pissing match is happening. The Township Committee wants more oversight of the BOE. Tony Fiori is still whining about losing his precious Stevenson Park Complex and being asked by the public to work with the BOE to upgrade fields. But ask yourself who is more qualified to make financial decisions that concern our children? The BOE Business Administrator and Superintendent in conjunction with teachers, principals, parents/residents and the 9 people elected to the BOE or our (likely) new mayor Tony Perry, who has shown himself at the very least to be dishonest in his campaign practices with zero experience in what our children need to succeed?
No other district in the state has ever gone back to April elections after moving them to November. That doesn't bar us from doing it, but it should give us pause to take our time, talk it out in public, get input and make the right decision, instead of this race to mediocrity we have in Middletown with these rash decisions, excluding all public input. Let's take a step back, take our time and do the right thing for the taxpayers and more importantly our children...
Please share, share, share and help keep Middletown Residents Informed!