After an hour of spirited debate, at times heated, Vacaville Unified School District leaders on Thursday voted to consolidate board member elections with statewide general elections.Their unanimous decision, made during a regular meeting at the Educational Services Center, came as several Solano County school district boards debated similar resolutions Thursday night, including Fairfield-Suisun and Dixon. On Wednesday, the Solano County Board of Education and the Vallejo City Unified board voted to consolidate elections, with the consensus being such a move would save their respective districts possibly several thousands of taxpayer dollars and also take advantage of greater turnout in general election years.
With the approval of Resolution No. 15, the VUSD governing board moves trustee elections from odd- to even-numbered years and extends board member terms by one year.
The board made its decision after a presentation from John Gardner, Solano County assistant registrar of voters, who, in a computer-aided slide presentation, laid out several scenarios of election costs.
He said if district trustees voted to stay in the odd-year election cycle, the percentage of VUSD costs would go up, perhaps considerably, given that several other districts had already decided to move to even-year elections. The deadline to decide is 5 p.m. today, he noted.
But nearly all the trustees voiced concern that their decision was rushed and forced upon them without adequate
notice or public input on the matter.”Could we revisit the issue next year?” Superintendent John Niederkorn asked at one point.
In public comments, Alex Henthron, a Sacramento State University student and community services commissioner for the city of Vacaville, said the pending vote appeared to be “a power grab” by some cities and other public entities.
Several trustees said they would not approve the resolution, saying, as board president David McCallum asserted, “It requires a lot more fleshing out.”
Kari Sousa, the district’s chief business official, said, “If we don’t go to even years,” then the district may be saddled with as much as 40 percent of odd-year election costs, potentially several hundred thousands of dollars.
After hearing the numbers, trustee Larry Mazucca said he felt pressured to vote to approve the resolution and that he was “ticked off.”
“This is BS,” he said. “This is just crap.”
“This goes against best judgment,” he added. “Now, we’re stuck” and must make “a poor decision.”
Fairfield-Suisun trustees on Thursday voted unanimously to approve consolidation, but Dixon Unified did not, with Superintendent Brian Dolan, in a text message, saying the motion died for lack of a second.
Jacki Cottingim-Dias, Fairfield-Suisun superintendent, said trustees debated the issue calmly and came to a decision for “logical reasons.”
“They felt voter participation would be higher in even years, and the board really felt they had no choice,” she said.