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Poll: Should School Board Elections Be in November?

Municipalities could move vote to align with general elections, while budget may be passed without vote.

The New Jersey Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie passed a bill in January that allows municipalities the option of moving school board elections to November. Currently, those elections and budget votes take place in April.

Any one of three groups can make the decision to move the vote: the school board, local voters (through a petition) and municipal government.

Moving the vote to November would align it with the general election. If a municipality chooses to move the vote to November, a district's budget would automatically pass if it remained within the 2 percent property tax cap. If it did not, it would still require voter approval, as would second questions.

Supporters of the bill, including Gov. Chris Christie, say it will save money by holding only one election, while also bringing in more votes since more people tend to vote in the general election than on the school board.

Opponents say that by eliminating the vote on a budget that falls within the 2 percent cap, it takes away the rights of residents.

Tells us what you think? Do you support the move to November and the elimination of the 2 percent cap vote? Like the move, but not if it means eliminating the budget vote? Or are you against the bill all together? Vote in our poll and then tell us why you voted that way in the comments.

Note: This poll appears on Patch sites in both Morris and Somerset counties. Reader comments may not be specific to your town.

Ron Swanson January 12, 2012 at 06:37 PM
The school elections should definitely be moved to November, when a greater proportion of registered voters go to the polls. However, ALL budgets, even those within the 2% cap, should be subject to voter approval. Even if within the cap, voters could still feel the increase is excessive, or have other issues with the budget that may cause them to vote "no". If you were a school board and could get an automatic 2% increase without asking the taxpayers' permission, wouldn't you take it wether you need it or not? Of course you would. That situation has to be avoided.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) January 12, 2012 at 06:44 PM
School officials in Bernards Twp. just told me Monday night that they won't get info. such as the deadline for candidate filings until this decision is made. So let's hope everyone is not left hanging for very long!
Karin Swenson Szotak January 12, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I believe it would be a great move. Btw, voting on the budget in November doesn't make sense since the budget is timed according to the school year. Positions are planned for starting in September. But I also think it should be uniform state-wide. Will the districts who opt to keep the vote in April be the ones paying for it?
Kev January 12, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Vote should be on Nov. General election day. Auto budget within 2% is lame. Any budget should be voted up or down by those paying for it.
Chrissy January 13, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I don't understand where the 2% comes into play? But I do know that when it comes to voting during spring break, most residents are on vacation. Also, the school system doesn't do a very good job promoting the actual voting day. I remember last year I had no idea we were supposed to vote until after it was over.
Cynthia January 13, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Why do people think a school budget needs to be voted on and not the municipal budget? Is the perception that town council members can be trusted whereas school board members can't be? Are town council members smarter? Are they better at keeping costs down? I'm sorry. I don't think any of this is true. I think what's good for the goose is for the gander. Either vote on them both or neither. In an era of 2% caps I see no reason not to move the school vote to November and have no vote for municipal or school if under 2% cap. If either is above, I'd like to see a vote. Period.
Ellyce Orecchio January 13, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Excellent comments. I reviewed the "poll" statistics and was actually surprised to see that some voters did not feel that budget review was necessary. Have you ever worked in the private sector? I would be interested in hearing the opinion of someone who feels that any budget or budget increase does not warrant a review. And everyone just sits back and wonders why our taxes keep escalating. This comment also applies to our municipal government. I also question why Hillsborough Township doesn't elect a mayor; the town has grown significantly and we should have a say in who represents us.
Karin Swenson Szotak January 13, 2012 at 12:55 PM
"Why not warrant a review of 2% increase?". Well in Madison, we are constantly cutting back on programs and staff and resources w the 2% cap increase. Education is a labor intense industry and w the rising cost of healthcare etc, a 2% increase to the budget doesn't cover diddly. We don't vote on municipal budgets, or state or federal for that matter, so why insist we take it from the children? I'm all for saving money and looking for efficiencies, but I'm tired of watching programs deteriorate while we argue about how to cover the costs.
BR Parent January 13, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Part of the Supt.'s job is to try to sell the budget to the taxpayers each year. Taxpayers have the right to vote on what they are paying for. If this right is taken away,then residents can count on an automatic increase at the cap each year. The BOE will never approve a budget less than cap. I hope they can challenge me on this.
Maxim Sapozhnikov January 13, 2012 at 01:50 PM
The voting time for school budgets was moved to April to ensure that people tracked and selectively informed by the school board (read: parents and union members) would have an edge. Not only that, combining the vote with the general elections in November will save money and organizers' efforts. The other part of the question is even more obvious: if it's OUR money being spent, isn't it?
Ron Swanson January 13, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Cynthia: the school budget comprises two thirds of residents' property tax bills. The other third is county, town, and library taxes COMBINED. Given that the school budget is the lion's share of our total tax bill, and by far the main driver of property tax increases, it has to be subject to special scrutiny by the voters. And while I would not say that council members are smarter thatn school board members, they are definitely more in tune with the need for cost control in delivering municipal services. Look at recent mammoth efforts to share services with neighboring towns as just one example. County and local tax increases in recent years have paled in comparison to the school tax increases. School Board members are a lot more likely to succumb to the demands of parents who all want their pet programs fully funded for their kids, and, as they did during the last round of contract negotiations, they are more likely to grant generous contracts to the teachers unions. In contrast, did you see the latest Borough contract with its municipal employees? It will actually cut costs $1 million over the next 3 years. When has the School Board ever done anything like that? Voting on the school budget is the only way taxpayers can reign the School Board in.
Ron Swanson January 13, 2012 at 02:42 PM
This nation is spending more, even after adjusting for inflation, on education than we ever have in our history, with lackluster results. More and more money is not the answer. See my comment above about why school board budget needs voter input - without it, taxes would rise right up to the cap each and every year whether needed or not. Until this state figures out a better way to fund education (property taxes are not the way to do it), then caps will be necessary.
Gavin Leslie January 13, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I agree. All good points. All opposed should contact the Governor's office to urge him to veto bill #A4394. 609-292-6000. To remove the ability to question an increase below the 2% cap runs the risk of a steady ratchet effect on tax increases. What if there is an opportunity to significantly reduce a budget? Move the elections by all means but the Community must keep the right and ability to accept or reject any budget. Even if this legislation is signed into law, adoption of this measure is at the discretion of the Board of Education. Would our BoE separate the community from budget approval and, if they are so inclined, why? An email to the Chairman of the BoE, Michael Rec, boe@wtschools.org, will cause the topic to become an agenda item at the next BoE meeting on January 24th at 7pm. As as the community votes on the school budget today, so the community should have an opportunity to vote on the adoption of this measure..
Lisa Ellis January 13, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Schools Districts have always covered the cost of the election in April and those that opt to continue to hold them then would continue to do so. They would also have some responsibilty for costs in November, Assembly No. A4394, passed on January 9th reads, "In the event that the date of a school district’s annual school election is moved to the day of the general election pursuant to this subsection, the board of education and the county board of elections shall enter into an agreement, pursuant to guidelines established by the Secretary of State, under which the board of education shall pay any agreed upon increase in the costs, charges, and expenses that may be associated with holding the school election simultaneously with the general election." The entire 39 pages of this bill can be viewed online. School Boards are still awaiting direction from Trenton regarding how to implement the change if they so choose.
Karin Swenson Szotak January 13, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Thanks Lisa for the info. So the economist in me must believe that the incremental cost involved to adding candidate names to the November ballot must be significantly less than the overall cost we currently pay for an April election. So why would any district not jump on the opportunity to change the date? Cost savings to all, not to mention the fact that the budget is passed automatically; all that's left to decide is what do we do w all those VOTE YES signs?
Adam Gragnani January 13, 2012 at 08:24 PM
It is about time that the voting for school budjets be moved to November. It should have been done a long time ago. Also, as a resident of Parsippany I for one do not like the idea that I and other residents would not have a vote on the school budjet. If we are paying the bills we should have a say in how our money is being used. Many senior citizens that live in the community and have not had their children in the school system for 25 to 30 years plus, are still paying into the school system. Why hasn't someone come up with a plan that will give senior citizens a "break" on their share of school taxes, I believe that some other states do this, why is it not done in NJ? I realize that a solid school system is needed for the students and I am willing to pay my fair share so that can be accomplished, however I also want the ability to VOTE on a school budjet.
Tom M Riddle January 13, 2012 at 10:11 PM
http://www.nj.gov/treasury/taxation/propfrez.shtml The vote you really want is one on what the Abbott Districts spend since all of your Income Taxes are going to support their (failing) school system.
Carmine J. Castagna January 13, 2012 at 11:31 PM
I’m not sure Kev meant it that way, but the budget SHOULD be voted up or down by the people who pay for it……the property owners of this town, whose real estate taxes pay the bulk of it. That would be the proper way, although perhaps not the most democratic or politically correct way. Since that may never happen, I say leave the budget vote where it now is. It’s a smaller voting group that shows up in May, but at least they do so with a defined interest in the budget and the school board. Throwing it open to everyone who turns out for a November general election (especially a presidential election) puts the budget decision in the hands of a greater number of people who have too little interest in whether or not it is passed. John Castagna
Cynthia January 14, 2012 at 05:33 AM
R. Swanson, you are totally missing the point. Firstly, if you want to see the state change the way it funds education, that's simple. Just review the Abbott Decision, which over a period of years changed the way we live in the state and more than doubled everyone's taxes. No matter what stat's used, this dreadful decision, in essence, gives 25% of the kids (the ex-Abbott Districts) approximately 70% of all state money for education. No matter how you slice it, when kids in Asbury Park are allowed close to $30k per year (how much does private school cost?) per student and in Madison, a solid district, it costs about $14.8k, do you think there might be something wrong? This single law is why anyone in any suburban town is paying taxes TWICE what they should pay. You want tax relief? Look up Senator Michael Doherty's plan for this. Add to that, as Karin said, the uncontrolled, unchecked rise in health care insurance (is anyone in this country watching over this??) and the mandated special education costs (also, unchecked but mandated) and it's easy to see why school budgets rise. A big part of the reason why education is spending more is because of unfunded mandates like the new and grossly overwhelming HIB law from your governor which is costing administrators countless of extra hours a week, a program which "should not cost districts any additional money", according to CC. Ha!!!!! Do towns have unfunded mandates?
spokey January 14, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Ellyce Orecchio Hillsborough decided against voting for their mayor in 2007. Under the present township committee structure you can't. The only options are the number of committee persons. The are several forms of government that allow allow you to vote for your mayor such as the mayor-council that Hillsborough voted down in 2007.
Ellyce Orecchio January 14, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Spokey, Thanks for your comment. I am aware of the fact that Hillsborough can not directly elect our mayor, but I DO NOT agree with it. I must have missed that vote and am curious if it was in fact the residents that voted it down. Would appreciate your feedback. In small towns, such as Raritan, the mayor is elected by the residents. Why in such a large Township, do we not?
Just Sayin' January 14, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Do any of you see the other blogs about Washington Twp. Schools population drop? If our town didn't have a say then they would never review if a school should be closed! Also what if another governor comes along and removes the 2% cap?! Maybe ALL budgets should come before the people!
Ellyce Orecchio January 14, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Excellent comment. I couldn't agree more.
Ellyce Orecchio January 14, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Lisa Ellis, I have a question. Where does the school district get the money to fund the election? Do the school districts have any other source of income than monies collected from the taxpayers. I'm honestly unclear on this.
Ellyce Orecchio January 14, 2012 at 11:03 PM
I saw an excellent comment which I am unable to find again regarding moving all elections to April. I agree, the first Tuesday following April 15th.
spokey January 14, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Ellyce Yes; Actually there were three votes on the subject and it had a somewhat interesting history. Sometime in 2004 (I think), a group started a citizen's petition to change the form of government to a 5 member mayor-council form with wards. The then current townsip committee didn't seem to like that one bit and in short after a number of court fights, the question was put on the ballot for the Novmeber 2005 election. The voters turned it down otherwise you'd be voting for your mayor today. So a Charter Study Commission was established and voters elected 5 commissioners in November 2006. The commission did their thing, produced their report and recommended a mayor-council without the wards. Not sure what Raritan has but mayor-council is the most prevalent form in the state. I do know Franklin is different and I think Somerville is as well. In November 2007, voters turned that down as well. Don't know if the patch allows urls in comments, but here is a flyer put out for that: http://csc.hillsboroughind.com/csc-mtg-misc/charter_study_ballot_info.pdf and if you want to read the commission reports, minutes watch videos etc, visit: http://csc.hillsboroughind.com/ disclosure: that site is mine and I was a CSC commissioner appointed following the death of one of the elected commissioners.
Ellyce Orecchio January 14, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Spokey, Thank you! I'll now do my homework. Having lived in Raritan, I know that the mayor is elected by the residents. Also, I want to say that I have never met our current mayor or any of the other Hillsborough mayors in the 15 years I've lived in Hillsborough. This is in no way intended to say they are not doing a good job. BUT, I am keeping my eyes wide open. Being unemployed for the past 2-1/2 years has given me an opportunity to pay closer attention to many issues. All may be happy to know that I have found a part-time position, but again my eyes have been opened.
Adam Gragnani February 11, 2012 at 02:54 PM
To Tom Riddle: Thank You Tom you are indeed correct. Someone or some official body has to determine how our school taxes are distributed in a fair and equitable manner. You cannot keep throwing money at failed school systems to try to correct them.

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