TRENTON, January 17, 2012—Governor Christie has signed legislation, S-3148, that gives communities the option of moving the annual election of school board members to November, according to a release issued today by the Assembly Majority Office. In school districts that change the election date, the annual base budget—that is, the proposed budget at or below the school district's tax levy cap—will no longer be placed before the voters.
Under the legislation, a community will be able to move the election date through any one of three methods:
In school districts that change the election date to November, the organization meeting of the board will take place in the first week of January. Board members in such districts whose terms would have expired following the April election will have their terms extended to the January organization date.
The Association is awaiting further guidance from the state concerning the date by which a school board must take action to change the election date for 2012.
NJSBA supported the legislation because it places the decision on moving the election date at the community level. However, the Association did seek an amendment that would have removed the municipal governing body's authority to change the school election date unilaterally.
"The interests of taxpayers are well represented in the school budget development process," explained NJSBA Executive Director Marie S. Bilik, following the bill's introduction in December. "Proposed budgets undergo thorough review by the state Department of Education to ensure efficiency, and they are controlled by the same 2-percent tax levy cap as are municipal and county budgets, which are not presented to voters.
"This bill would give school districts the ability to eliminate an exercise that is often frustrating and of little value: placing budgets that are already at or below cap on the ballot, where they can face misplaced voter dissatisfaction with municipal, state or even federal spending."
She continued, "Many school boards have expressed apprehension about mixing the non-partisan school board member elections with the partisan November General Election. That's a legitimate concern. This bill, however, would leave the decision to the local board of education, allowing it to weigh concerns about partisan elections with factors such as voter participation and whether there is a need for the district to continue holding referendums on proposed budgets already controlled by the tax levy cap."
The New Jersey School Boards Association is a federation of 581 local boards of education and includes 81 charter school associate members. NJSBA provides training, advocacy and support to advance public education and promote the achievement of all students through effective governance.