P.O. Box 909 ● Trenton, NJ 08605-0909 ● Phone: 609.695.7600 ● Fax: 609.695.0413 ● Web: www.njsba.org/PI
CONTACT: Frank Belluscio (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mike Yaple (email@example.com)
Voters Approve Nearly 80% of School Budget Proposals
State aid, property tax cap factor in voter approvals
TRENTON, April 28, 2011—Local school district efforts to comply with the state’s new tax cap law played a large role in voter approval of nearly 80 percent of proposed budgets in Wednesday’s Annual School Election, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association.
“Voters understood the difficult choices many school boards had to make this year when developing their budget proposals,” said Raymond R. Wiss, NJSBA president, who noted that program and staff reductions, shared services and student activity fees became part of many districts’ financial plans for 2011-2012.
“School boards were sensitive to the impact of the current economy on members of their communities and balanced that concern with their responsibility to propose adequate funding for educational programs. Voters indicated that they believe local school board members have done an effective job in addressing these priorities.”
On Wednesday, voters approved budgets in 429 (or 79.7 percent) of the 538 New Jersey school districts that placed proposed 2011-2012 base budgets before voters, according to preliminary and unofficial results compiled by the Association. The approval rate was significantly higher than last year, when voters rejected nearly 59 percent of proposed school budgets statewide – the first time since 1976 that New Jersey voters rejected a majority of school budgets.
Voters on Wednesday also chose candidates to fill 1,612 school-board seats statewide, and they approved five of eight bond referendums.
Initial results indicate that voter turnout was lower than last year’s record of 26.7 percent.
8 second-ballot questions approved School boards in 11 districts presented a second-ballot finance question asking voters to approve spending outside of the base budget. Voters approved eight of the second questions.
Second ballot questions typically, but not always, ask to exceed the district’s proposed base budget. Second questions must state the dollar amount and the program, staff or service to be funded if voters approve of the question.
Second questions were approved in Springfield Township (Burlington County); Kingsway Regional (Gloucester County); South Hunterdon Regional (Hunterdon County); Wall Township (Monmouth County); Franklin Township (Somerset County); Kittatinny Regional (Sussex County); Garwood (Union County); and Greenwich Township (Warren County).
Second questions were rejected in Franklin Township (Hunterdon County); Monroe Township (Middlesex County); and Sparta Township (Sussex County).
5 construction bonds approved The April school election is one of five dates a year that school boards can ask voters to approve a school construction question. Eight school boards asked voters in their community to decide a cumulative $50.8 million in proposed school construction for new schools, additions or renovations. Voters approved five of the eight questions.
Construction referendums were approved in Riverside Township (Burlington County); Pequannock Township (Morris County); Ringwood (Passaic County); Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional (Salem County); and Wallkill Valley Regional (Sussex County).
Construction referendums were rejected in Upper Township (Cape May County); Nutley (Essex County); and Jackson Township (Ocean County).
The next date that a school board can propose a school construction referendum is Sept. 27.
Other questions Voters in Franklin Township (Hunterdon County) approved a question to reduce the size of their school board from nine to seven members. Also, voters in River Dell Regional (Bergen County) rejected a change in the method of apportionment from a system based on each community’s property valuation to one based entirely on the pupil enrollment from each community.
Municipal questions New in 2011, municipalities could ask voters in the Annual School Election to approve spending over the state’s 2-percent tax levy cap. Voters rejected 12 of the 14 municipal proposals to exceed the cap.
Voters approved the municipal questions in Brick Township (Ocean County) and Lambertville (Hunterdon County). The municipalities where non-school above-cap questions were rejected included: Northvale (Bergen County); Bordentown Township, Lumberton Township, Mansfield, Medford and Mount Holly (all Burlington County); Shrewsbury Township (Monmouth County); Jackson Township and Plumsted Township (both Ocean County); Carneys Point (Salem County); Hardwick and Oxford (both Warren County).
Review of rejected school budgets When voters reject a school district’s proposed base budget, the municipal governing body reviews the proposal, and it can leave the budget intact or make cuts. This year’s deadline to make the decision is May 19.
A school board may appeal a municipality’s cuts to the district’s base budget – if the cuts would undermine the district’s financial stability or would prevent the schools from meeting state standards. Such budget appeals are uncommon; there were none in 2008, two in 2009, and one last year.
When voters reject a second ballot question that asks for funds outside of the district’s base budget, there is no review by the municipality. The voters’ word is final, and the program or service is lost for the year unless there is an outside donation.
The New Jersey School Boards Association is a federation of 588 local boards of education and includes 44 charter school associate members. NJSBA advocates the interests of school districts, trains local school board members, and provides resources for the advancement of public education.