Thursday, May 12, 2016

School Budgets Approved in Most NJ Districts Holding Elections

In 2012 a number of significant changes were made to New Jersey's school districts in terms of budgets and elections. Districts were given the option of keeping elections in April or moving elections to November. Many chose to move elections to November. Although sometimes this was contentious as in a 5-4 vote that occurred in Hoboken, New Jersey.  

In addition, districts were given the option that if their budget was less than 2% higher than the previous year's budget (with some allocations), the budget would not necessarily have to be put on the ballot. For instance,  taxpayers in Hoboken, New Jersey have not had a vote on the budget for almost 4 years and have seen the total budget go from $64,300,000 for 2013-14 to $69,758,824 for 2016-17 or an 8.56% increase. During the same period of time the district K-12 enrollment (line 39 on yearly ASSA reports) has gone from 2321 students (2013-14) to 1940 students  (2016-17) or a 16.41% decrease*. 
"Under the new state law, a city council, school board, or public referendum can decide to move elections....the measure can be debated again in four years." 2/28/12
Municipal taxpayers and concerned citizens may or may not have an issue with this type of situation but, as in Hoboken, their concern will likely not be realized via the ballot box. Although the issue can now again be debated since more than 4 years have passed since the original motion was passed.   -Dr. Petrosino 

School budgets were approved in 14 of 16, more than 87 percent, of the New Jersey districts that held budget elections on Tuesday, April 19. In two districts, the spending plans were rejected.
Voters in 17 New Jersey school districts went to the polls to select members of their local school boards, and in 16 of those, voters also took action on local revenue to fund the proposed 2016-2017 school budgets. In Newark, a state-operated district,budget elections are not held.
A total of 83 candidates, half of them incumbents, ran for the 52 open seats on ballots in the 17 districts.
In the 17 districts holding elections on April 19, the ratio of candidates to open school board seats is 1.59 to 1. That figure is higher than in the November 2015 General Election when there were 1.22 candidates for each open seat statewide.
Until 2012, all of New Jersey’s school districts with elected boards of education, more than 540, held their annual elections in April. Legislation enacted that year permitted communities to move their school board elections to the General Election date in November. The vast majority of communities have done so. In the November election districts, the proposed school budget is not placed on the ballot if it is within the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap.
Statute also permits communities that opted for November elections to switch back to an April date after four years. This year, two districts, Plainfield and Asbury Park, switched from November election dates back to April.
Annual school elections took place on April 19 in the following school districts; the result of the budget election is noted after the district name:
Bergen County – Cliffside Park (Approved); Fairview (Approved); Garfield (Approved); Hackensack (Approved); Oakland (Approved); Palisades Park (Rejected).
Essex County – Irvington (Approved); Newark (a state-operated district with no budget election)
Hudson County – North Bergen (Rejected); Weehawken (Approved)Middlesex County – New Brunswick (Approved)Monmouth County – Asbury Park (Approved); Neptune Township (Approved)Morris County – Riverdale (Approved)Passaic County – Passaic (Approved); Totowa (Approved)Union County – Plainfield (Approved)
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*The All Residents (including charter school) number (line 51 ASSA report) has gone from 2363 students (2013-14) to 2546 students (2016-17) or an increase of 7.74%. Currently charter schools spend about $13,000 per student while the traditional Hoboken public schools spend around $26,000 per student.