Support grows for putting High Point budget on the ballot

Wantage. The Wantage school board president disagreed with a committeeman’s assertion that school boards are not “accountable” to the voters. The school board may have to option to refuse.

14 Jan 2021 | 04:04

Four of the five municipalities that send students to High Point Regional High School support moving school board elections to April, which would put the school’s budget on the ballot.

Wantage Committeeman Jonathan Morris said on Jan. 7 that he’d talked with the Frankford mayor, who said he was going to present the change to the committee at its next meeting. The committee was scheduled to meet on Jan. 12, as this paper goes to press.

If all five municipalities ask that elections return to April, with no less than 85 days left before the third Tuesday of that month, the school board could then pass its own resolution either to comply or outright refuse. But the school board must submit its resolution no fewer than 60 days before April’s third Tuesday.

If the school board overrules the municipalities, the matter could go to a referendum. Each municipality would need a petition signed by at least 10 percent of the voters in the previous election to get a referendum put on the ballot.

A school board cannot overrule the voters.

Wayne Dunn of Wantage was recently named president of the High Point Board of Education. He said at the Jan. 7 meeting that, although he wasn’t speaking for the school board, he disagreed with comments Morris made in December that school boards were not “accountable” to the voters.

“The voters have a chance to speak about what they want and who they want in the schools,” Dunn said. “They want exceptional schools that maintain and sometimes elevate home values in our township.”

When the budget was passed in April, Superintendent Scott Ripley said the district lost $753,678 in state aid for 2020-21. The school used “banked cap” – money the district could have taxed in the prior three years but didn’t because the levy was under the 2 percent limit – of $1.74 million. The lax levy increase was 14 percent.

Dunn asked the committee why they felt their fiduciary judgment was better than the elected members of the school board.

“There are lines of communication that can be opened up and help understand the situation the schools are in because of the state aid cuts that have been just decimating,” Dunn said.

“The voters have a chance to speak about what they want and who they want in the schools. They want exceptional schools that maintain and sometimes elevate home values in our township.” Wayne Dunn