School election dates to change

FLINT TWP. — The Carman-Ainsworth Board of Education will take action at its Dec. 13 meeting to comply with new legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last week to standardize school board election dates.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, school districts will be required to hold elections during the general elections in November of even-numbered years, under provisions of Senate Bill 427, sponsored by state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, and House Bill 4005, sponsored by state Rep. Kurt Heise, now Public Acts 232 and 233 of 2011.

Some school districts could save as much as $8 million over a two-year cycle, according to estimates.

“Utilizing a standard election cycle will cut administrative costs and help schools maintain focus on educating students,” Snyder said in a press release. “This change also allows for more consolidated elections so voters have the best opportunity to make their voices heard.”

It has yet to be determined how much CA will save from this change.

“There will be a savings to the district but it is difficult to predict the amount of savings because elections costs are determined by dividing the total election costs by the number of entities — townships, cities, community colleges, etc. that have issues on any particular election date,” said Superintendent Bill Haley.

Presumably, future election costs will be divided by many levels of government conducting elections in November of even-numbered years, he said.

Last year, CA spent about $5000 on election costs, said Russ Parks, CA assistant superintendent of operations.

At its meeting next week, the CA Board will consider a resolution to extend until Dec. 31, 2012, the terms of two board members due to expire June 30, 2012. That will allow those two seats to be placed on November 2012 election ballot, Haley said.

Since 2004, districts have had the option of conducting school board elections during odd-year general elections, odd-year May regular elections, the November regular election in even and odd years, or the May regular election in even and odd years.

Haley expressed mixed feelings about the change.

“School board elections have always been known for being non-partisan,” Haley said. “While voter turnout will undoubtedly be higher for November elections than our traditional May school board elections, which is a good thing, there will also be a heightened risk that November school board elections will also become much more partisan and politicized.”

Partisanship, politics and political fundraising have recently become a part of the school board election process in some very prominent Michigan school districts, Haley said.

“Speaking for myself, I believe strongly that public schools are a “community” function, not a political process and I’m very leery of any changes that would discourage potential board member candidates (and administrative candidates) from pursuing public service in our schools,” he said.

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