School Board Votes to Move Elections to November
The Ocean City Board of Education action eliminates public votes on school budgets that fall under the state's 2 percent cap.
The Ocean City Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a resolution that moves annual school elections from April to November.
The measure also eliminates public voting on school budgets that fall under the state's 2 percent cap on tax levy increases.
Wednesday's vote did not include the three Upper Township representatives of the Ocean City board, and Ocean City representative Ray Clark was not present. But otherwise the measure passed with little discussion.
Gov. Chris Christie had signed a bill last week that gives school districts the ability to move the election to the same day as the general election in November, and New Jersey towns have until Feb. 17 to do so, if they want to make the change this year.
Read an FAQ on guidelines for the new election law released by the state on Jan. 26.
The law’s supporters say moving the vote to November could increase voter turnout as the city selects its school board members — just 10.71 percent of the city's registered voters turned out for Ocean City's uncontested elections in April 2011.
The move will also save the district the cost of running a separate election in the spring — typically more than $15,000.
In signing the new bill, Christie suggested the new state cap on school taxes serves as a check and balance on tax increases in the same way the public vote does. The public will still get to vote on school budgets that exceed the cap.
School board members whose terms expire in April will serve until a January reorganization meeting after the November election. The school elections will remain nonpartisan. Prospective candidates for the November election will have to submit nominating petitions by the June primary.
Ocean City cannot change its election date back to April for at least four election cycles.
"NJEA supported this legislation because it offered local districts the option of moving the election or leaving it as is, as the school board sees fit," NJEA spokesman Steve Baker said last week. "We also support removing the budget from the election. Nowhere else do voters get a direct say in the budget by voting for it. School boards set the budget based on their individual community and school needs — that's what they're elected to do and that's what they should be doing."
"Voters do not get to vote on municipal or county budgets," New Jersey School Boards Association spokesman Frank Belluscio said. "School budgets often bear the brunt of voter dissatisfaction."