Butler BOE to Eliminate Annual Budget Vote
The resolution moves school board member elections from April to November.
The Butler Board of Education approved a resolution at its Tuesday meeting that will move board member elections to November and eliminate the vote on the annual budget.
The resolution, which became available after Gov. Chris Christie approved legislation on Jan. 17, eliminates the public vote on the district’s annual budget as long as it stays within the state-mandated two percent tax levy cap.
Although all members present were in favor of the resolution – resulting in unanimous acceptance – a few were wary at first of voting for it without getting more input from the public.
“If you only talk to yourself and a few other people, you’re only going to get certain answers,” Board Member Jay Dean said. “I wish the seats were all filled with the public tonight so we could hear the various aspects of our community from people who have children in kindergarten to maybe somebody at the other end of the spectrum who didn’t have kids.”
While all of the members seemed to agree with his sentiments, Board President Matt Lee pointed out that members are called on to represent the public and decide what is best for the schools.
Before the members discussed the resolution, Superintendent Mario Cardinale said he recommended the change. However, he said he understood if the members wanted to table it and consider holding a special meeting in early- or mid-February to gather public opinion.
However, Board Vice President Tracy Luciani said it is difficult to sustain the district’s offerings at the two percent cap. With the cap guaranteed for four years, Luciani said she felt the board had to take advantage.
“I’ve been on the [board’s] finance committee for the past three years and been through four budgets and it’s really hard,” she said. “Every year, we finish saying, ‘This year has been the most difficult.’ And I can honestly say every year it gets harder and harder and harder.”
Lee agreed, adding that the board always spends a great deal of effort and resources to let people know about the budget, let alone try to drum up positive votes. With the budget vote out of the way, Lee said the board would be able to “gain ground” and focus on other issues.
Board Member Cynthia Sokoloff said eliminating the budget vote ultimately avoids something that should be unifying but is usually divisive. It’s always a battle, she said.
“Even when it’s passed, it’s always them versus us, and I hate that because that’s not what we’re about,” Sokoloff said. “Doing this kind of eliminates that, and the battle becomes, ‘Who wants to be a board member?’ I think that’s a healthy battle.”