School districts in Michigan would only be permitted to hold elections in November of even-numbered years under a bill passed Wednesday by the Michigan House of Representatives. The bill passed by a vote of 72-36 and was billed as a way to cut costs and improve efficiency. But not all local officials agree.
Schools currently can set elections on any of the state’s four annual election dates, as can municipalities. The districts are responsible for the costs, which vary. In Adrian in 2011, for example, the May election cost the school district $6,171.
“Our current system is confusing and costly,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, said in a news release. “This reform gives us the rare opportunity to save money, increase efficiency and improve voter turnout.”
Jim Hartley, superintendent of the Madison School District, called the bill “an ill-advised action.”
School issues would get lost in the long ballots of a November election, he said.
In addition, Hartley said, it makes sense for new board members to be elected in May and take office at the start of the new fiscal year, rather than jumping in halfway through the school year.
“They do it on the premise that it’s going to save money, but the proof’s not there,” he said.
Hartley said he filed a request for county figures about a year ago and found that, in 2010, school elections in Lenawee County cost $24,680.28, with Madison’s expense being $1,360.45.
“If the Madison School District can’t decide how to spend $1,360.45 … the state ought to just close us all and take us over,” he said.
Hartley also said he doesn’t know how the state will address the millage elections caused by the Headlee Amendment, which some districts, including Madison, conduct every May. He said he hopes the Senate rejects the bill.