Ordinance No. 2392-13 was approved on second and final reading by a township council majority vote of 4-1, with councilman Joe Krakoviak being the only nay vote.
The ordinance went before the council and was approved on first reading at the Nov. 12 township council meeting.
Mayor Robert Parisi initiated the change last month and recommended the election be moved for various reasons, including trying to save the taxpayers money and keeping the residents and students of the West Orange School District safe.
“There are not a lot of easy ways to save money and when the administration was looking towards the budget for next year, we thought this was a good thing,” Parisi said at the Dec. 3 council meeting. “It will save the township closer to $90,000 or $100,000.
Parisi also stated at the Dec. 3 meeting that there is “nothing sinister” about the administration recommending the change now and understands people have a “natural skepticism” about things.
“We thought the time was right,” Parisi said. “I didn’t believe there was going to be a lot of opposition to it and I respect the people that disagree, but it is right for West Orange residents for no other reason than good policy.”
Parisi added that the school board changed their election time “seamlessly” and he believes having fewer elections will keep students in the schools safe, as schools are usually open all day on election day and act as polling stations for voters to come and go as they please.
Parisi further stated that there will “always be drop-off” in voter turnout, but the turnout will still exceed that drop-off if elections are moved to November.
Council President Susan McCartney agreed with Parisi at the Dec. 3 meeting stating that the move “saves quite a bit of money going into next year’s budget.”
Krakoviak stated through email correspondence with the Patch this week that he believes the council should have given residents more time to look at both sides of the issue before approving the ordinance to move the non-partisan elections.
“I believe we should have had a longer period of time – more than the three weeks we had for introduction and approval -- for people to learn of the proposal and consider its pros and cons,” Krakoviak said. “Voters should have a vote on when they vote for their municipal leaders.”
Krakoviak also stated he believed the township council and Mayor should have shown more interest in the petition of 175 signatures that residents presented at the Dec. 3 meeting, requesting the vote to go up for referendum.
"I was greatly disappointed by the lack of interest by the council majority and mayor to the petition with 175 signatures of residents from all over town obtained over a few days requesting a referendum,” Krakoviak said. “Four other municipal councils across the state have reversed course and listened to residents who asked for -- and received – such referendums. If it turns out we’ve made a mistake, the law requires us to live with it for at least a decade.”
Parisi stated at the Dec. 3 meeting that the township “can’t put every emotionally charged issue up for referendum.”
“We all won’t always agree, but it does not mean
we are ignoring residents or the township or that we should short down as a
government,” Parisi said. “We are elected officials and have to make decisions.”