Source: Sherman Publications

And then there were none: Board moves toward November election

by Laura Colvin

March 16, 2011

Jim Weidman surprised at least a few people at last week's board of education meeting when he took the proverbial bull by the horns and proposed a change many in the community have asked about.

"I would like to recommend discussion and action…to move to November election date," said Weidman, Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education Treasurer. "This is a disappointment for me."

May school elections, he said, not only allowed districts to stay in step the academic calendar - which runs from September to June - and with the fiscal calendar, which runs July through June - but also allowed for a nonpartisan election separate from other elections.

Weidman was part of a three-member committee who recently met with Orion Township Clerk Penny Shults to discuss costs associated with the election.

"Historically, when the school district ran elections, it cost approximately $4,000," Weidman said. "The most recent election prior to the one we just had cost slightly better than $30,00 when administered by the county and township."

Tiffany Weber-Phillips, board secretary, was admittedly surprised by Weidman's suggestion.

"I'm happy Jim brought this up," she said. "We did have a very positive meeting with the township and found a lot of our election costs were not under our control, or the township's, because of the legislation put into place."

Weber-Phillips was the only member Weber-Phillips, whose term on the board expires this year, is not seeking re-election was the only member to vote 'no' in a December 2009 motion that moved school elections to odd years only, but kept them in May.

"I think (the township) has tried to control some of the costs," she said, noting she felt the elections were a budget item that could be eliminated without great loss.

Trustee Bob Gritzinger, on the other hand, said he was amenable to discussing a change to the November election cycle, but, like Weidman, was not happy about the idea in principle nor practical matters.

"I've worked on this issue since day one trying to achieve some sort of rational election policy with other officials in the community," he said. "It doesn't work. We're at loggerheads. The net effect is one government entity is sticking it to another one."

Gritzinger also said he felt the election dates would not be a problem elsewhere.

"If this was not Oakland County we would not be in this position," he said. "There are 500-some school district across the state and only in Oakland County is this and issue.

"You don't have to look very far to see why that is, but I'm going to suspect it will become an issue across the state now that that person is the Secretary of State."

In addition, Gritzinger noted, the board and the school district, in his opinion, were taking a lot of undue grief.

"I feel like we've been bullied for several years on this issue," he said. "I hate to give in to bullies but you can only beat your head against the wall for so long."

Weidman said he felt it the board should discuss and vote on the issue at the upcoming budget workshop, but board President Mary Jo Burchart cautioned against such quick action.

"Normally our policy is to discuss an item at a meeting and wait until the next meeting to take action." she said. "I'd like to maintain that.