Voters across New Jersey dealt mixed results to 16 ballot questions pertaining to their public schools yesterday, ranging from bond issue referenda to questions about reducing the number of members on the boards. Most districts across the state also selected school board candidates.
Six of eight school construction projects were approved, either fully or partially. But four of five tax levy questions, which sought voter approval to increase property taxes above the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap, were defeated. Included among the defeated questions was one in Wayne, Passaic County, where voters were asked to approve a $2.1 million increase that would expand the district’s kindergarten from half-day to full-day.
In other ballot questions, one Warren County district, Alpha, approved a measure to shrink the size of its school board from nine to seven. The same question was posed to voters in nearby Knowlton Township, but results were not yet available. In Lacey Township, Ocean County, voters said “no” to a question that would have shifted school board elections back to April, from November. The district was the first in the state to propose such a change since most districts moved school board elections to November, following enactment of a 2012 law permitting the change.
Results of ballot questions are as follows:
Moving Election to April
Lacey Township: DEFEATED
Township voters were asked if the district’s school board elections should be moved from the General Election in November, back to the third Tuesday in April. The township moved its elections to November in 2012. In school districts with April elections, voters act on proposed school budgets each year.
Reducing Size of Board
Two Warren County districts, Knowlton and Alpha, asked voters if the number of members on each board should be reduced from nine members to seven.
In Knowlton, the question on the ballot read, “due to our decreasing enrollment and an inability to fill the current nine seats” the board felt it would be in the best interest of the district to reduce the board size. “This will make it easier to fill the necessary quorum and continue to function as an effective board,” the ballot read.
Tax Levy Questions
Under statute, voters may approve property tax revenue above the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap. Five school districts placed such questions before voters.
Netcong (Morris County): DEFEATED
A proposal asked voters to authorize $200,000 to fund two new elementary teachers, to reduce class size, and also to increase part-time art, music and Spanish positions to full-time.
Wayne (Passaic County): DEFEATED
Voters were asked to approve an additional $2,114,250, to fund the expansion of the district’s kindergarten program to a full-day program.
Cape May Point (Cape May County): APPROVED
Newfield (Gloucester County): DEFEATED
Elmer (Salem County): DEFEATED
All three districts are “non-operating,” sending their children to neighboring communities through tuition agreements. Voters in the school districts were asked to authorize increases in property tax revenue to cover recurring shortfalls that originated with a state aid reduction in 2010-2011. Cape May Point sought voter approval to raise an additional $50,000. Newfield asked for voter approval to raise an additional $563,873. Elmer sought voter approval to raise an additional $645,897.
Voters in eight school districts were asked to approve construction bonds to fund additions, renovations and/or other improvements. State funding would cover at least 40 percent of eligible construction costs.
Total project costs proposed: $116,902,886
Total project costs approved: $48,211,551
State funding proposed: $36,736,037
State funding approved: $18,464,475
Clearview Regional APPROVED
Renovations to high school, middle school and administrative office, including creation of two STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) instructional areas for robotics and computer-assisted design and enhancement of overall technological capacity in the three buildings.
Total Project: $1,995,000
State Funding: $800,110
North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional DEFEATED
Renovations to North Hunterdon and Voorhees high schools, including transforming libraries at both schools to multi-media interactive student centers; installation of an artificial turf field at Voorhees High School; renovations to the Field House at North Hunterdon High School; and other improvements.
Total Project: $7,324,335
State Funding: $1,732,440
Improvements to school facilities, including installation of telecommunications systems, security systems, upgraded fire alarm and HVAC, high school locker room improvements, track upgrades, various other improvements.
Total Project: $9,343,707
State Funding: $3,157,457
Marlboro Township DEFEATED
Renovations and improvements to seven schools, plus an addition to the district’s Early Learning Center Elementary School.
Total Project: $46,642,000
State Funding: $10,660,000
Somerset Hills Regional APPROVED
Renovations and upgrades to school facilities, to include improvements for ADA compliance, and renovations at Bernards High School to convert a former auditorium to a library/media center, and conversion of the current library/media center to special and general classrooms.
Total Project: $5,829,094
State Funding: $2,331,637
Point Pleasant Beach APPROVED
Renovations to include roof replacement and repair, bleacher replacement, HVAC upgrades, and other improvements.
Total Project: $9,900,000
State Funding: $3,910,605
Two-part proposal to include renovations and improvements to high school, middle school and three elementary schools.
Various renovations and improvements.
Total Project: $20,900,750
State Funding: $8,167,466
Proposal 2 (contingent upon voter approval of Proposal 1): DEFEATED –
Result was by eight votes; awaiting results of write-in ballots. Additional improvements and renovations to same schools.
Total Project: $14,725,000
State Funding: $5,879,122
Green Township APPROVED
Proposal to replace unit ventilators at Green Hills School
Total project: $243,000
State Funding: $97,200
School Board Member Elections
In addition, voters in 522 school districts selected school board candidates in the General Election.
Four years after legislation permitted local school boards to move their elections to November, almost all New Jersey districts have done that: Only 16 school districts still hold elections in April. Another 43 districts have appointed boards.
A total of 1,861 candidates were seeking 1,528 open school board seats across the state, meaning there was a ratio of 1.22 candidates running for every available seat. Last year, there were 1.23 candidates per seat.