TRENTON, November 9, 2016 —When New Jersey voters went to the polls on Tuesday, November 8 to select a president, most also had the opportunity to choose men and women to serve on their local school boards.
In 523 New Jersey school districts, the Annual School Election takes place in November. This year, 1,533 board of education positions were on the ballot statewide. In addition, voters in 17 school districts acted on ballot proposals seeking approval to increase the local tax levy above the state’s 2 percent cap, issue construction bonds, or change the 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 17 school districts hold their annual elections in April. (In addition, there are more than 40 districts in which school board members are appointed by the mayor or the county board of freeholders.)
Rate of Candidacy
This year, 1,974 candidates filed petitions to run for the 1,533 school board positions on the ballot. This represents a slight increase over 2015, when 1,861 candidates vied for 1,528 positions.
The ratio of candidates per open seat increased slightly this year to 1.29 candidates per available position, compared to the 2015 ratio of 1.22 candidates per seat, according to data gathered from the state’s 21 county clerks. However, that ratio is still below the 2011 level, the last year in which all board member elections were held in April. In 2011, there were 1.44 candidates for each available seat.
School boards may place special questions on the November election ballot, and this year 19 districts did so.
- Eight school boards asked voters to approve funding beyond the state’s 2-percent tax levy cap.
- Six boards conducted bond referendums asking voters to approve borrowing for school construction projects. Construction proposals totaled more than $98 million statewide.
- Five boards of education saw other questions, including proposals to change from an appointed to an elected board or vice versa; to change the method of apportioning revenue to be raised by the municipalities within the regional school district; and to reduce the size of the board of education.
Tax Levy Questions School boards may place questions on the November 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 eight districts with tax levy questions included:
Ridgefield (Bergen County) – REJECTED
$1,140,000 to restore the budget to adequacy level, adding one high school science teacher, one high school math teacher, one high school social studies teacher, one world language teacher, one teacher for English language learner programs, one career technical education teacher, two school counselors, two library media specialists, additional curriculum resources, and one additional maintenance worker. The proposal also addresses facilities management expenses and employee benefits related to the new positions. (permanent)
Ridgewood (Bergen County) – APPROVED
$929,800 to employ additional personnel and acquire additional equipment and supplies to implement the district’s full-day kindergarten program. (permanent)
Waldwick (Bergen County) – REJECTED
$462,225 for the replacement of the artificial turf field at Waldwick High School. (one-time)
South River (Middlesex County) – REJECTED
$480,000 to employ 6.5 teaching staff members throughout the district for class size reduction and instructional program modifications. (permanent)
Netcong (Morris County) – REJECTED
$320,000 to hire two elementary teachers for the purpose of reducing class size and to increase art, music, world language teachers and the school psychologist to full-time status. (permanent)
Lakewood (Ocean County) – REJECTED
$1,000,000 for debt reduction (permanent)
Wayne (Passaic County) – REJECTED
$2,096,885 to establish a full-day kindergarten program. (permanent)
Woodland Park (Passaic County) –REJECTED
$495,000 to re-open Woodland Park Public School No. 1 (permanent)
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 8, voters in six school districts decided proposed school construction referendums. Under the Educational Facilities and Construction and Financing Act of 2000, the state will fund at least 40 percent of eligible school construction costs through annual debt service aid.
Statewide amount proposed – $98,920,962
Statewide amount approved — $36,556,807
State funding – $30,133,371 (State reimbursement through annual debt service aid equaling at least 40 percent of eligible costs)
State funding approved — $7,182,773
Mullica Township (Atlantic County) Results not available at press time, pending counting of absentee and provisional ballots.
Proposal 1: Renovate two schools, including roofing, window, door, masonry, electrical, sewer system, and maintenance building exterior wall reconstruction work.
Total amount: $2,893,842
State funds: $1,299,550
Proposal 2 (contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): Additional renovations and improvements at two schools, including new parking lot, door, HVAC, lighting, and other related work.
Total amount: $1,901,030
State funds: $637,837
Lyndhurst (Bergen County) – APPROVED
Additions at four elementary schools and building alterations, conversion of existing spaces to new uses, and systems improvements at four elementary schools and Lyndhurst High School.
Total amount: $19,873,807.
State funds: $4,293,973
Kingsway Regional (Gloucester County) — REJECTED
Construction of a new athletic track, related improvements, new fencing at the stadium and the varsity baseball field, a storage facility and renovations to the existing maintenance/transportation center at Kingsway High School.
Total amount: $3,923,756
North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional (Hunterdon County) – APPROVED
Window replacements, library/technology center renovations, bleacher replacements and tennis spectator area improvements for ADA compliance and safety purposes at North Hunterdon High School and Voorhees High School; HVAC upgrades and field house renovations at North Hunterdon.
Total amount: $9,743,000
State funds: $2,888,800.
Long Branch (Monmouth County) — APPROVED
Renovations and improvements at old high school building.
Total amount: $6,940,000
Pinelands Regional (Ocean County) – ALL REJECTED
Proposal 1: Site work, exterior system replacements, interior repairs, HVAC replacement, electrical, security and communications upgrades at junior high school and high school
Total amount: $46,826,329
State funds: $18,730,532.
Proposal 2 (contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): New, secured entrance at two schools; safer and more efficient bus drop off and pick up area at junior high school; safety and security renovations to main entrance/office and library; IT infrastructure upgrades at both schools
Total amount: $4,875,448
State funds: $1,907,679
Proposal 3 (contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): New grass field at stadium, track and tennis courts resurfacing at high school.
Total amount: $1,943,750
State funds: $375,000
Other Ballot Questions In five districts, voters acted on questions related to school board composition and apportionment of regional district costs.
Linwood (Atlantic County) – APPROVED – Voters acted on a proposal to reclassify the school district from one with an appointed board of education to one with an elected school board.
Orange (Essex County)—APPROVED – In a municipal public question, voters were asked to approve changing the board of education from one that is appointed to one that is elected.
Carteret (Middlesex County) – REJECTED – Voters decided whether to reclassify the district from one with an elected board of education to one with an appointed board.
Jamesburg (Middlesex County) – APPROVED – On the ballot was a proposal to reduce the size of the Board of Education from nine members to seven.
West Morris Regional High School (Morris County) – APPROVED – Voters acted on a proposal to change the method of apportioning school costs among constituent municipalities from one based on equalized property valuation to a method based 50 percent on each municipality’s equalized property valuation and 50 percent on the proportioned number of pupils enrolled from each municipality.