By Michelle SartorGov. Chris Christie signed legislation Jan. 17 that allows school districts to move their spring elections to the November general election through the adoption of an ordinance or allowing the public to vote.
In districts that move elections to November, boards can bypass the traditional public vote on school budgets, as long as the budgets fall within the 2 percent tax levy cap increase.
Proponents of the move cite cost savings and greater voter participation, while opponents worry the move to November could politicize the non-partisan school board races or the school elections could get lost in the higher profile general election races.
Board of education members whose terms expire in the spring will retain their seats until November if the election date is changed. The deadline for an election move is Feb. 17, but many districts throughout the state have already made decisions.
Education officials in Teaneck, Bergen County were one of the first to move the election to the fall. That school district has had its budget defeated by voters numerous times and officials said they wanted to avoid the political issues that arise when the defeated budget must go before the council.
Members of the Glen Rock Board of Education in Bergen County decided in a 7-2 vote to move the school board elections to November. Those in favor of the move said they hoped it would increase participation while those opposed worried that the school elections would get lost amid the other races.
The Egg Harbor Township Board of Education in Ocean County also approved a resolution to move the school elections to the fall.
Tenafly school board members in Bergen County unanimously passed a measure to move the school elections to November in what they said is a cost-saving measure that they hope will increase voter turnout.
Education officials in Hamilton, Robbinsville, East Windsor and Ewing in Mercer County; Monroe in Middlesex County; and Lambertville in Hunterdon County have approved moving elections to November.
Officials in Wildwood in Cape May County are expected to adopt an ordinance that was recently introduced to move the school elections from May to November. Voters there previously approved a non-binding referendum for the move.
School board members in Emerson in Bergen County unanimously decided to keep the school elections in April. They said they didn’t want to politicize the school races by combining them with the political elections that take place in November.
Many other education officials are currently discussing the option of moving their school elections from the spring to the fall. Those in West Milford in Passaic County are asking for public input before making a final decision.
Education officials have until Feb. 17 to pass a resolution to move the school board elections to November.