Armed with a 16-page presentation, Mendham Borough resident Brian Cavanaugh came to Tuesday's meeting of the mayor and council and asked that they spend $10,000 to fund a study as the first step in a process to break up the school district.
And before he even opened his mouth to speak, Mendham Borough Mayor Neil Henry agreed to commit the money.
"I've read your presentation and while we disagree on some of the points we agree that the funding formula is inequitable and needs to be fixed," Henry said. "I think its fair to say we can authorize to spend the $10,000."
Cavanaugh is one of several emmissaries speaking out to governing bodies and boards of education in hopes of drumming up support for the study. Cavanaugh's presentation stated there is a $6.6 million dollar imbalance in the funding of the current regional district and suggested dissolving the current school district and creating a new school district that would serve the Mendhams and the Chesters.
"The first step is to fund a feasibility study to assist in the evaluation of alternatives before submitting a single alternative to the voting public within the sending municipalities," Cavanaugh said in his report (which is attached as a PDF to this post).
According to figures provided by Cavanaugh, an investment of $10,000 for the feasibility study would generate $1.6 million dollars a year for Mendham Borough residents.
Cavanaugh said in his report the timing was right to pursue this agenda because the census numbers showed the population of Mendham and Chester eclipsed that of Washington Township.
Washington Township "can no longer keep us from passing the referendum," Cavanaugh's report said.
Cavanaugh said that concerned citizens have been working for years to help elected officials understand the "subsidy is unfair and is hurting our schools." Cavanaugh said the regional board of education tabled the issue and the mayors meetings with all the municipalities did not work.
"We know you guys worked hard at other avenues," Cavanaugh said. "But unfortunately it didn't work."
Cavanaugh said in his report that Washington Township was not an economically disadvantaged community.
"I'm sure they like taking out money, but they don't need our subsidy," Cavanaugh's presentation said.
Cavanaugh said that the Mendham Borough Council already appropriated the money for the purpose of a feasibility study and did not spend it or return it to the taxpayers.
"I know I didn't get a check for my portion of it," Cavanaugh said.
Councilman John Andrus said that characterization was too simplistic.
"The point is we can find the money for the study if it is a valid study," Andrus said. "We all think what was going on is unfair. It’s a matter of how to get there."
Mendham Borough resident and substitute teacher Alise Ford had an issue with the price tag being too high for one community and expressed those thoughts to Cavanaugh.
"You've asked the council for $10,000 and now you are going to ask the K-8 board for $10,000 so as a Mendham Borough taxpayer I am going to shell out $20,000 out of $50,000?" Ford asked.
Cavanaugh said that they weren't sure how much money would be needed, depending on how many boards of education and governing bodies participated.
"We may ask Chester for $20,000. We don't know yet," Cavanaugh said.
Henry said the council would have the money for the study, but would discuss it further at the next meeting.
"This was a quick turnaround," Henry said. "We need a little time to digest."