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Ballot deadline looms for School Board change PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 18:53

PW-S officials who aim to address vacancy by changing the way one member is elected still collecting signatures

    The Port Washington-Saukville School Board’s efforts to fill a long-vacant seat by changing the way one of its members is elected hinges on whether officials can collect enough signatures by a deadline this month.
    School officials need the signatures of 500 district residents in order to ask voters for permission on the April 3 ballot to create an at-large seat that can be filled by anyone in the district.
    The board would remain at nine members, and the new seat would replace one that currently represents a small section of the towns of Saukville and Grafton. That seat has been vacant since October 2015, and with only about 350 registered voters living in this area, a candidate to run for the position, or even a person willing to apply for a board appointment, has been elusive.
    Board bylaws currently call for the board to consist of five members from the City of Port Washington, two from the Village of Saukville and one each from the Town of Port Washington and the towns of Saukville and Grafton. The proposed change would only affect the Saukville-Grafton town seat.
    Although board members represent specific areas of the district, all voters may vote for all candidates. For example, a Village of Saukville resident may vote for a City of Port Washington School Board candidate.
    Supt. Michael Weber said this week that the district has collected about 400 signatures, although some petitions are outstanding. The district must review the petitions and purge the names of non-district residents who mistakenly signed it, he said.
    The petitions must be presented to the School District clerk and a resolution authorizing the ballot question delivered to Ozaukee County Clerk Julie Winkelhorst 70 days prior to the April 3 election in order for the proposed change to be included on the ballot.
    If school officials are successful in presenting the change to voters and the measure is approved, it will not take effect until the three-year term of the current town of Saukville-Grafton seat expires in April 2019.
    “You wouldn’t think getting 500 signatures would be that difficult — the board didn’t think it would be — but it turns out it takes a lot of time,” Weber said.
    The issue isn’t that residents are opposed to the change, he said, but that it takes time to explain the issue to residents being asked to sign the petition.
    The School Board had intended to propose the change on the April 2017 ballot but fell short of the 500 signatures needed to present it to voters.
    This time around, board members have been circulating petitions at events where the proposed change can be explained to a number of people at once and petitions are available to sign.
    A vacant Saukville-Grafton town seat was not always a problem. For 16 years it was occupied by Jim Eden, who served as board president for two of those years before resigning in March 2014.
    The board appointed Paul Krechel in July 2014. Krechel ran unopposed in the April 2015 election but resigned in October of that year.
    Despite the district’s efforts to find an appointee to fill the seat, as well as an April 2016 election that failed to attract a registered or even a write-in candidate, the seat has remained vacant since Krechel’s departure.Daily Press