The resolution, which was proposed by 3rd Ward Councilman Carlos Bernard at last week’s conference meeting, would have moved the election of the Board of Education and the approval of the school budget to coincide with the November elections, based on new legislation passed at the state level in January of this year.
During the public comment period, Superintendent of Schools Jason Bing, Board of Education President Mary Shaughnessy, and several others had spoken against the move, citing the difficulties of starting the school year without an approved budget in place. Under the current timing, since the school budget is voted on in April and the fiscal year begins in July, the school district has plenty of time to hire new employees and implement programs for the upcoming school year.
When the resolution came up for a vote, Councilman Bernard stated that he had called the state authorities to learn whether they had any solution for the issues raised by the move of the school elections to November. Bernard said the state had no answers, and as a result he felt uncomfortable moving forward with the change.
He initially asked to rescind the resolution rather than vote on it; however, after discussion with the township attorney, the council decided to vote on the issue so that it would not be deferred to the next meeting. During the discussion period, each council representative indicated they would vote against the move.
Councilman Joanow said “We do not need to create chaos on September 1,” and said it was best to “leave education to our educators” and respect their advice not to make the change. Councilman Venezia stated, “After careful consideration, I am changing my vote to no,” but indicated the change should be reconsidered in the future. Councilwoman Dunigan was absent due to recent knee surgery so did not vote on the matter.
The council voted unanimously against moving the school board elections to November, triggering enthusiastic applause from the audience.
At the beginning of last night’s meeting, Dr. Richard Levao, President of Bloomfield College, accompanied by Dr. Marion Terenzio, Vice President for Academic Affairs and President of the Bloomfield Center Alliance, and Mr. Kwi Brennan, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, presented a donation of $25,000 to the Bloomfield Police Department, which was warmly accepted by Chief Christopher Goul.
In other business, the council voted to 4-2 to amend the Township code pertaining to the Parking Authority, a move that would change the number of commissioners from five to seven. The change was opposed by Councilman Hamilton and Mayor McCarthy. McCarthy stated the Parking Authority has been “one of the bright spots” in the community and that no other towns in New Jersey have more than five members on their parking authorities.
The council also approved a number of resolutions appointing members to the township’s various boards and commissions. The appointment of Al Chalet, second cousin of Councilman Elias Chalet, to the Parking Authority, which caused controversy at last week’s meeting, passed. Mayor McCarthy and Councilman Bernard Hamilton voted against the appointment. The Mayor stated he would veto the resolution, saying the appointment of Chalet is “for all the wrong reasons.”
Township Attorney Brian Aloia explained after the meeting that the Mayor has ten days to sign the resolutions passed at last night’s meeting, and during those ten days he has the opportunity to veto the resolution appointing Chalet. If he does so, the resolution will come back to the council at the following conference meeting. The members of the council can then override the Mayor’s veto if there are five votes in favor of the appointment.
The next Bloomfield Council meeting will be a conference meeting on Monday, February 27, 2012, at 7 p.m. in the 2nd floor conference room in the Law Enforcement Building.