April elections bring big wins for school districts

Published on Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It’s the kind of support rarely seen whenever a voting booth is involved:  More than 92 percent of the school budgets passed in annual elections held April 16.

That’s a good start for the handful of districts in New Jersey that have chosen not to move elections to November under a law that went into effect in 2011.

Initial reports show that budgets passed in 36 out of 39 districts which have opted to continue the practice of April school elections.  More good news is that it appears that 12 of the 14 known NJEA members on the ballot were victorious. 

The bad news is that budgets failed in Belleville (Essex), North Bergen (Hudson), and Edison (Middlesex). 

These results are preliminary and will not become official until all mail-in ballots are in and the elections have been certified by county clerks.  The process could take up to a month.

Support for schools

Still, these initial reports indicate remarkable support for local public school districts.  In addition to the high rate of passage for base budgets, voters in these districts also backed all second questions and construction plans.

It’s a message that resonates from 2011, the last year before the new law supported by NJEA allowed annual school elections to be moved to the general election in November.  That’s when school budgets passed overwhelmingly at a statewide average of nearly 80 percent—almost doubling the disastrous passage rate of the previous year when Gov. Christie urged residents to vote down budgets to protest high property taxes.

This year, the bulk of New Jersey’s communities—more than 500—will hold their school elections in November.  Under the new law, when school elections are moved from April to November, the requirement to put the budget to a vote is eliminated—as long as the budget remains under the statutory 2 percent revenue cap.  However, any portion of a budget proposal that exceeds the cap must be put on the November ballot as a separate question.

School board candidate elections also will move for any district that opts to hold November elections. As with April elections, candidates would not be listed by political affiliation.

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