Voters in New Jersey approved 53.4% of the proposed school budgets on Tuesdaya significant drop from last year and the lowest rate of approval since 1994, according to unofficial results from the state Department of Education.
Voters in 549 of New Jersey’s school districts decided budgets totaling $10.5 billion in local spending. Unofficial results show that voters approved 293 of the proposed 2006-07 school budgets. During last year’s Annual School Election, voters approved 70.7% of school districts’ base budgets.
“Even in these tough financial times, voters in the majority of districts approved school budgets and demonstrated a willingness to support education,” said Edwina M. Lee, NJSBA executive director. “Communities are faced with stagnant state aid, which puts pressure on homeowners to pay more of the cost through property taxes.”
State Aid Factor “In fact, 2006-07 will mark the fifth consecutive year that schools have received little or no increases in state aid,” she explained. “During this time, enrollments have increased and costs in areas such as utilities, gas and health insurance have also skyrocketed.
“For the 48% of New Jersey’s communities where budgets were defeated, the hard job of determining what is critical for our schools now moves to municipal governing bodies. Lines of communication between school boards and municipalities need to be open.”
In recent times, the highest budget approval rates88% and 81%occurred in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Ironically, those were also the last two years that the State of New Jersey fully funded public schools, as specified in state law.
Additional questions Voters in 57 school districts also acted on 72 additional ballot questions. They approved 24 of the questions, or 33%.