The Mayor and Council debated the merits of recently signed legislation allowing municipalities to from April to November, but did not take action Tuesday night.
Part of that discussion at the governing body's meeting included feedback from some of the people who helped to pass the legislation in state Sen. Robert Singer and Assemblyman David Rible. They were part of a delegation from Trenton on hand to recognize the retirement of longtime Assemblyman Joseph R. Malone III. The newest Assembly member, Sean Kean, also was on hand for Tuesday's meeting.
Rible called the school election legislation a "complicated bill," but said there were certain goals they were trying to accomplish with its passage. The first goal being to save taxpayers money by only having one election and the second to increase voter turnout through the general elections' typically higher numbers.
One of the questions Mayor Robert Walsh had was how Howell's participation in the Freehold Regional High School District would impact their decision to possibly move the election to November. Singer said that if part of the regional district changed and part did not then all new members of the board would take their seats in January.
The Freehold Regional High School District held a meeting this week but the topic of moving the elections was not discussed. At least one of the sending districts has already decided to as Manalpan made the switch at a recent meeting. The Freehold school districts also decided this week to .
Singer said that while the move to November would eliminate the vote on budgets that do not exceed the 2 percent cap implemented by the state, it will also help towns elect people who play a prominent role at the local level. "We just felt that having a better turnout meant better representation," he said.
Singer added that because districts will aim to stay under the cap it will also make their efforts more efficient. "They're going to do everything in their power to make sure they don't exceed the 2 percent cap," he said. "The assumption would be lets keep the budget as tight as possible.
While not pointing to Howell specifically Singer said some districts in the state have been known to fill their budgets with some extra items knowing that if they were voted down those extras could be easily cut. The new legislation, he believes, would eliminate that as a concern. "This really stops that nonsense," he said. "You better be bare-boned going into it. If you're going to exceed that cap then you're going to be voting on it."
According to the legislation the election change can be made by the local , the governing body or by a vote of the people. Singer said it was a good thing that the council was waiting to see what the board of education did at tonight's meeting before taking any decisive action. "If they decide not to do it then I think you have the right to look at it as the governing body and make a decision," he said. "It really gives you a couple of options that the public can have input on."
Deputy Mayor William Gotto said that while the council was not taking action on Tuesday, they should be ready to at the Feb. 7 meeting.
"I would like to have us be prepared in case the board of ed does not enact this tomorrow," he said.
One way residents can share their opinions is a new feature on the township's website. Through the "Ask the Mayor and Council" option, residents can send an email to the entire governing body about topics related to the town. Gotto said with their feedback the council will be able to make a more informed decision. "I want to make sure that we are getting the most informed opinion out there if we are forced to have to make a decision at the next council meeting," he said.
The Board of Education is scheduled to meet tonight at Middle School North at 8 p.m.