By DON STINE
Tinton Falls’ two fire district are considering moving their annual elections, now held in February, to November and they are also exploring increasing shared services or possible consolidation of the two districts.
A 2017 state law allows fire districts throughout the state to move their annual elections to the general election in November, such like was recently done with school districts.
“It would be part of the general election and the county would bear the cost,” Fire District #1 President Andrew Calvo said.
He said the two districts are looking at the “pluses and minuses” of moving the election date but he pointed out that not both districts have to do it at the same time.
Calvo said that voter turnout in the February elections are traditionally very low, with only 91 residents in District #1 and 140 residents in District #2 casting ballots earlier this month, out of a total borough population of about 17,000 residents.
“It is always a small turnout,” he said.
Calvo said some fire department members have expressed concern that moving the election to November will increase partisan politics in the elections and that they should not become “part of a political statement.”
He said that the elections have always been nonpartisan and that “it has been very good that way.” Moving the elections to November also means that voters will not cast ballots on the annual fire district budgets unless there is a move to exceed the state-mandated caps on expenditures.
He said the districts, if they want to act soon, have until December this year to decide if they want to move the election to November and that once that decision is made “there is no turning back.”
Calvo also said the two fire districts are looking for ways to better manage and possibly merge services “to make things run easier.”
Fire District #2 President Matthew Park said fire districts represent one of the best examples in New Jersey for consolidation.
“We still have a lot of homework to do. Once the wheels are in motion, there is no stepping back,” he said about changing the election
Park said the both issues are a “work in progress” and that no deadline has been set for making a decision.