Board of Ed to Discuss Elections, Ridge Bus Dropoff
Public invited to weigh in on two major issues scheduled to be discussed Monday night.
The public has been asked to provide input on Monday night regarding two major issues before the Board of Education: whether to move annual school elections from April to November, and if school buses loaded with Ridge High School students should continue a new dropoff procedure behind the Cedar Hill Elementary School.
A majority of Bernards Township Board of Education members said on Jan. 23 they favor moving annual school elections to November. But board members agreed at that night's meeting they would first like to hear from the public at the scheduled Feb. 13 meeting before taking a final vote. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the William Annin Middle School.
"I think it would be fair to give people an opportunity to talk about it," Board Member Elaine Kusel said. She said she views the only negative of the new school election date is that the change could take away the public's right to vote on the annual school budget.
The statewide option of moving school budgets from April to November, as outlined in legislation signed in January by Gov. Chris Christie, would allow a school district to forgo putting its proposed budget on a public ballot—as long as the increase on the local tax levy stays within the 2 percent cap.
Board members in favor of the move said the school district is hurt for years to come if the public rejects a school budget, even if it is under a state imposed cap. The April election sometimes falls within the district's school break, and supporters said it often is more difficult to get people to the polls at that time than in November.
While Board President Susan Carlsson had noted before the meeting that board members elected in November's general election would need to wait until January to be seated—and losing or retiring members would remain as lame ducks—Board Member Audrey Cohen Sherwyn said she is not bothered by the gap of a few months. "We can use the gap to train people," she said.
Board Member Susan McGowan said she has reservations about taking away the public's right to vote on the school budgets.
McGowan said she would prefer to see the public's right to vote expanded on more public budgets. "I think you would see a lot of meaningful cuts," she said.
Even those board members in favor of the change decided to wait until hearing public input on Monday.
Another change, already imposed on a "trial basis," is the rerouting of Ridge High School buses to drop students off in the traffic circle at the Cedar Hill Elementary School on Peachtree Road. The students then can walk behind the Cedar Hill school, on a paved walkway, to reach the back of the high school.
The new dropoff for the Ridge buses, only in place in the morning, is an attempt to alleviate the traffic backups that occur during morning rush hour every school day at the traffic light at the high school entrance. The driveway into the high school leads from the intersection of South Finley Avenue and Lake Road.
The rerouting of buses began on Feb. 1. Some of the initial complaints came from residents of Homestead Village, who said that the increase of buses on narrow streets leading to the elementary school creates a safety hazard.
The school website said rerouted buses are coming through the South Finley Avenue side of Homestead Village on the way to the Cedar Hill School parking lot between 7 to 7:30 a.m. Cars using the Cedar Hill School parking lot to drop off high school students or children attending morning childcare at Cedar Hill may continue to do so at the front of Cedar Hill School, the website said.
The website previously said a discussion of the trial program will be held at Monday's Board of Education meeting.
Carlsson said the administration, responsible for making the decision to change the bus dropoff, likely will give a presentation on the new route. After that, the board will ask for comments from the public, she said.