When New Jersey voters went to the polls on Nov. 7 to choose the state’s next governor, most also had the opportunity to elect members of their local boards of education.
In 530 New Jersey school districts, the Annual School Election takes place in November. This year, 1,590 board of education positions were on the ballot statewide. In addition, voters in eight school districts acted on ballot proposals, ranging from construction bond issues, to requests to increase the local tax levy above the state’s 2 percent cap, to proposed changes in composition of the local school board.
Starting in 2012, communities were permitted to change the date of their annual school board elections from April to November. Over 90 percent of school districts now conduct November elections. Only 13 school districts hold their annual elections in April. (In addition, there are 41 districts in which school board members are appointed by the mayor or the county board of freeholders.)
RATE OF CANDIDACY
This year, 2,046 candidates filed petitions to run for the 1,590 school board positions on the ballot. This represents a slight change from 2016, when 1,974 candidates filed petitions to run for the 1,533 school board positions on the ballot. The ratio of candidates per open seat was roughly the same both years, approximately 1.29 candidates per available seat.
In 2015, the ratio was 1.22 candidates per seat, according to data gathered from the state’s 21 county clerks. In 2011, the last year in which all board member elections were held in April, there were 1.44 candidates for each available seat.
School boards may place special questions on the November election ballot, and this year eight districts did so.
- Three school boards asked voters to approve funding beyond the state’s 2-percent tax levy cap for specific items. All three were defeated.
- Two boards held referendums asking voters to approve borrowing for school construction projects. One, Belleville, was approved, while one in Green Township was defeated.
- Three boards of education proposed other questions, including changing from an appointed to an elected board; eliminating Civil Service employment in the district; and changing the size of the board of education.
Tax Levy Questions School boards may place questions on the ballot asking voters to approve spending outside of the state’s 2-percent tax levy cap. The question must state if the additional revenue sought would represent a permanent or a one-time increase in the district’s tax levy. The three districts with tax levy questions included:
Ho-Ho-Kus (Bergen County) – REJECTED — $450,000 to restore co-curricular clubs and athletics that were eliminated from the budget, hire an additional teacher, and pay for technology costs and the Board of Education’s STEAM program. Approval would have resulted in a permanent increase to the tax levy.
Netcong (Morris County) – REJECTED — $85,000 for the hiring of one elementary school teacher, including benefits, for the purpose of reducing class size. Approval would have resulted in a permanent increase to the tax levy
Warren Hills Regional (Warren County) — REJECTED — $762,900 total. First, funds to continue select B level and freshman athletic programs, including soccer, field hockey, basketball, baseball, softball, lacrosse and cheer, to include moving a part-time athletic secretary to full-time; and departmental high school and middle school field trips. Approval of those items would have resulted in a $176,521 permanent tax levy increase. Also proposed was a $586,379 budget-year only increase to support technology infrastructure upgrades, to support student technology in the classrooms, and student data warehousing software to monitor student achievement and growth.
Construction Proposals The annual school election also serves as one of five dates during the year when school boards may ask voters to approve school construction proposals. On November 7, voters in two school districts decided proposed school construction referendums. Under the Educational Facilities and Construction and Financing Act of 2000, the state funds at least 40 percent of eligible school construction costs through annual debt service aid.
Statewide amount proposed – $50,195,601
Statewide amount approved — $48,536,601
State funding proposed– $24,446,894 (State reimbursement through annual debt service aid equaling at least 40% of eligible costs)
State funding approved — $23,782,934
Belleville (Essex County) — APPROVED — Renovations, upgrades, site improvements; building envelope improvements including window, door and roof replacement; facilities system upgrades; renovations to multipurpose room/auditorium; ADA compliance, including elevator installation, among other items.
Total amount: $48,536,601
State funds: $23,782,934
Green Township (Sussex County) — REJECTED — Roof replacement, acquisition and installation of unit ventilators and air conditioners, and ADA improvements at the Green Hills School.
Total amount: $1,659,900
State funds: $663,960
Other Ballot Questions In three districts, voters acted on questions related to district or school board operations.
Millville (Cumberland County) – REJECTED — Voters acted on a question to allow the school board to rescind participation of Title 11A and Title 4A of the New Jersey Statutes, which covers the Civil Service system. The recession would have taken effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The Millville teachers’ union challenged the question, and a Superior Court judge set a trial for Nov. 14.
Orange (Essex County) – APPROVED — Voters approved reclassifying the district from one with an appointed board of education to one with an elected board.
Loch Arbour (Monmouth County) – BOARD SIZE UNCHANGED — Voters were asked if the new school district board should contain three, five, seven or nine members. The district was created on May 1, 2017, with a five-member appointed board. By an overwhelming majority, voters opted for continuation of a five-member board.