Vote Montclair: Referendum On Elected BOE Headed to Ballot in November

If there are no legal challenges or other changes, you can expect to see a referendum question on the ballot on November 2, asking Montclair voters if they want an elected Board of Education.

The Vote Montclair movement has been a push to have voters decide if Montclair will join the 97% of New Jersey municipalities that have an elected Board of Education.

Township Clerk Angelese Bermúdez Nieves gave official notice Friday that the Vote Montclair petition had been declared “sufficient,” according to Vote Montclair. The petition required 1,020 valid signatures — 15% of the turnout in the last Assembly election — to appear on the ballot. According to the clerk’s official “notice of sufficiency” released yesterday, 1,033 were found to be valid.

“This is a thrilling reminder of the power citizens have under the initiative system that is a cornerstone of local democracy in New Jersey,” said Vote Montclair founder Erik D’Amato. “I’d like to thank the Committee of Petitioners, the many volunteers who took time to collect signatures, as well as Township Clerk Bermúdez Nieves and Township Attorney Ira Karasick for keeping it straight.”

Vote Montclair is also exploring the possibility of another referendum — one that would allow voters to decide whether to move Montclair’s municipal elections from May to November, with a goal of increasing voter participation and engagement.

In March, the League of Women Voters released a statement in favor of maintaining an appointed BOE in Montclair, adding that past referenda on this issue were held in 1963, 1969, 1971, 1995 and, most recently, 2009 – and all were unsuccessful.

According to an initial survey conducted by Vote Montclair, more than three out of four respondents (77%) said they favored an elected BOE, with 13% saying they were unsure, and 9% saying they were in favor of retaining an appointed board.

The Township of Montclair has not released any statement, but Councilor At Large Peter Yacobellis had this to say in response to learning the news Friday:

“I first want to congratulate Vote Montclair for a well executed effort. I love seeing democracy in action. This is a very complex, serious and historical issue and I hope that Montclair residents truly take the time to understand the arguments and make educated decisions. To that end, I’ve been in conversation with several organizations and individuals in town in hopes of ensuring we can produce debate and educational forums this fall. I also hope all Montclair residents make sure they are registered to vote and have a plan to vote to ensure that each and every voice is heard on this matter. I have not taken a position on this issue and do not intend to until I’ve spent enough time listening to the arguments, studying our history, and considering the impact a change of this magnitude can have.”

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  1. Vote Montclair is also exploring the possibility of another referendum — one that would allow voters to decide whether to move Montclair’s municipal elections from May to November, with a goal of increasing voter participation and engagement.

    This is a seriously deficient argument to apply in the State of New Jersey. C’mon, Vote Montclair, if you are going to peddle stuff, then do your homework. So very lazy – or worse!

  2. I look forward to the answers to the following:

    1. Will the MPSD switch to a calendar fiscal year or remain on the current June 30th fiscal year ending?

    2. Who pays the costs of holding referendums on exceeding the 2% budget cap and for school bond issues?

    3. With the long term facilities capital cost projected at $60MM, what will be the bond servicing cost differential between the Township’s AAA rating and the district’s rating as a standalone entity?

    4. What budget cost drivers, e.g. healthcare, are excluded from the cap calculation and not subject to voter approval?

    5. Do the items excluded from cap allow the BoE to increase the cap bank reserve for future spending?

  3. A typical Essex County Presidential election ballot has 4 Elected Offices and 2 Public Questions. We’re a Red town, so, considering the choices, its goes pretty quickly.

    The proposal is to add Mayor, At-Large, Ward Councilor. A minimum of 3 School Board members (and a likely 4th for unexpired term). A likely referendum question on multiple School Bond Issues and/or one for Exceeding the School Cap. There will have to be room for write-ins on all of these.

    And we are transitioning from 100% Mail-In to majority In-Person and new voting machines. Navigation will require multiple screens to scroll with multiple blocks separating the State/National representatives, Council, School Board, State Questions, and Local Questions. I’ll read the questions again even though I received a sample ballot..because I’m an engaged voter. Then I have to review and confirm all my choices…because the is what seniors do. I also suck at typing. I’ll be in the voting booth for a good ten minutes.

    I think we will need a lot more voting machines.

  4. Further to our voice in school budgets, my laypersons understanding voters only vote on portion above the State’s 2% Cap. This means that there is no change to taxpayers input from present Type 1 Board…if we stay below 2% increases to school tax levy. Conversely, Montclair, based on past performance and current advocacy to increase school spending, will likely have to vote yearly. I don’t know if there is any limit to how much over cap we can approve.

  5. And that $60MM of long-term school capital plan? All that debt moves to the school side of your taxes.

    Now, consider all those Redevelopment projects we did…and what may still come with Lackawanna Plaza.

    All of those tenants make payments in lieu of property taxes. Specifically, they make payments in lieu of the municipal tax levy. Any significant increases in school tax levy and a jump in school borrowing will not affect them. Their payments only have a COLA adjustment.

    Our rent control ordinance puts limits on what can be passed along by property owners. These potential costs will get passed along to remaining pool of property taxpayers…including renters not covered by the RC ordinance (e.g. the 2-3 family rental buildings).

    Eyes wide open…look before you leap.

    to renters. So,

  6. File under What You Have Not been Told:

    This elected board proposal will not fix the short-term.

    Assume Montclair approves moving from Type 1 to Type 2 in November, 2021.
    We will hold a special election the following Spring (2022) to approve holding an election for BoE candidates on the November, 2022 ballot.
    Those elected will take office whenever the BoE Reorganization Meeting is held in 2023.
    The district will move to a calendar fiscal year (unless we skip full disclosure) and the first operating budget the new members will act on is for 2024. Of course, we could do bond issues anytime, but we would have to hold special elections…which we understood we would avoid.