State laws requiring school districts to combine their trustee elections with either a city or county will apparently force significant changes in the timing of elections and the terms of board members in the Brownwood Independent School District.
“We’re still being told that we will need to combine our elections,” Dr. Sue Jones, superintendent, told the board last week, after the matter was first mentioned at the August meeting. “Since we won’t be able to hold joint elections with the city (Brownwood), we’ll have to go with the county.”
However, coordinating those elections will require wholesale changes in the way trustees have been elected for decades.
The school district, with seven board members holding three-year terms, elects three trustees one year and two each during the next two years. Balloting is conducted in May, with the next election scheduled in 2008. The county holds elections every two years, in November.
One likely arrangement would find trustees serving four-year terms with four board members being elected initially, and then three up for election two years later.
Jones said the district can’t hold joint elections with the City of Brownwood because of its election cycle that developed after terms were extended from two to four years in length. The mayor, police chief and two council members are elected one year, and three council members are elected the next year. For the next two years, no city elections are scheduled.
Trustees agreed with Jones’ suggestion that Deron Robinson, associate with the Henslee, Fowler, Hepworth & Schwartz law firm in Fort Worth, be asked to attend the October board meeting to discuss options.
“It’s not like we have much of a choice,” board member Dr. Justin Murphy said.
Jones said the new schedule will need to be put in place by the end of this calendar year.
“But since this involves elections, I think we should approach it with caution,” Jones said.
By state law, when board members’ terms are adjusted to accommodate the joint elections, trustees who are in office as of Jan. 1, 2008, can serve no less than the time they would have served if the change had not been made, Jones said. They can, however, serve longer.
“It only makes sense that some (trustee) positions will have more advantages — or perhaps that should be disadvantages, depending on how you look at it,” Jones told the board. “There would be some system of drawing for places, I would assume.”
Suzy Young, Brown County elections administrator, told trustees at their meeting that Brownwood would not be the only school district in the county adjusting its board terms to comply with the law.
“Brookesmith, Zephyr and May are already planning to elect trustees in even-numbered years,” Young said.
Those school districts, which have no municipal entities with which to hold joint elections, did not conduct May elections this year as they have in the past, and will instead hold them in November.
County elections are divided into the four commissioners precincts, with multiple voting boxes within each precinct. However, the single-member districts drawn within the Brownwood school district do not share the same boundaries. That means ballots for a single board position may be found in more than more voting place.
“We’ll just have to overlay the districts and see where they are,” Young said.
Young said she believes voters should not be asked to travel to multiple polling places on election day in order to cast ballots in every election for which they are eligible to participate.
“It will be a logistical nightmare, especially with a presidential election going on in 2008, but we’ll make it work,” Young said. “The voters don’t need to go to too many places to vote. That’s a disincentive.”