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School Board to Vote On New Election Terms

Feb 27, 2017 12:00PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Will the Manhattan Beach Unified School District school board vote to extend its current members' terms by one year? Or will it extend future board members' terms? The board will need to choose one or the other of these options at its meeting on March 1, in order to stay in compliance with requirements of new state law SB 415.

SB 415, which takes effect on January 1, 2018, requires school districts, (among other local public entities/municipalities) to hold elections on even years, if holding an election on a different date has previously resulted in depressed voter turnout. Since the voter turnout for MBUSD Board of Trustee elections has met this standard, MBUSD is therefore required to change its election cycle.

The two choices before the board are 1) extending the current board members' terms by one year, which would put MBUSD in compliance by November 2018; or 2) extending the board terms of future board members, which would put the board in compliance by November 2022.

In researching what other districts are doing, MBUSD found that 34 out of 36 other local districts have voted to extend current board members' terms to 2018. Of the remaining two, one of those districts was already in compliance, and one district's election will be decided by city charter.

The reasons given for extending current terms are that 1) It puts districts into compliance sooner (November, 2018); 2) It more quickly allows the public greater influence, because of the higher turnout in an even year election; and 3) It saves district dollars – estimated between $75,000 and $200,000, as even year elections with more items on the ballot are less expensive for school districts to hold.

The primary rationale for not extending current member terms, and for delaying the election change until 2022 and 2024, is the challenge of a board voting to extend its own terms.

“In speaking with school superintendents around the state, most boards said that the financial savings and the idea of immediately complying with the law made the decision to extend terms a clear choice,” said Superintendent Mike Matthews. “After learning about the significant cost savings for the district, I am recommending current term extensions.”

The board will vote on the change at its meeting on Wednesday, March 1. The public session begins at 6:30 p.m. at the MBUSD district office at 325 S. Peck Ave. in Manhattan Beach.

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