Just hours before the bill would have been pocket vetoed Governor Chris Christie signed legislation A-4394 / S-3148 (Greenwald/Norcross) that allows school districts to move their school board election to November and eliminate a school budget vote if the district stays below cap.
The new law allows voters or their elected representatives to decide whether they want to move their school board election from April to November for at least 5 years. The law creates two different procedures for school districts to move their annual school election to the day of the general election in November:
- Under option one the date of the election would be moved if a petition is signed by not less than 15% of the legally qualified voters who voted in the district at the last preceding general election is filed with the board of education and then approved by the electorate in the community in the next general election;.
- Under option two the date of the school election could be moved upon adoption of a resolution by the board of education or the governing body of the municipality.
School Board Members would be elected in November and take office at the beginning of January for districts that opt into the change. A district that has moved its annual school election to November would not require voter approval for its base budget but any proposal for additional funds above the school district’s tax levy cap (2% cap) would be presented to the voters in November as well.
Where a district includes a number of towns aka a regional district all of the constituent districts must approve the move.
Districts would be bound for five (5) years to the modified election cycle.
School districts would continue to submit their budget to the Commissioner of Education for approval. If however a district is seeking to go over cap the district would submit a temporary budget to the commissioner. The temporary budget could not exceed the district’s tax levy growth limitation.
If the voters approve the proposal for additional spending the board of education would submit the final budget to the commissioner and the tax levy for the school year would be recertified to reflect the additional amount. If the voters disapproved the proposal for additional funds the district’s temporary budget would be its final budget for that school year.
The Division of Local Government Services and the Department of Taxation in consultation with the Commissioner of Education is tasked with assisting districts with any actions necessary to develop estimated tax bills and recertify the tax levy.
NJPSA as well as many of the other stakeholder groups including the New Jersey School Business Officials New Jersey Education Association New Jersey School Board Association and Garden State Coalition of Schools supported the legislation. All the groups expressed the benefit of eliminating the budget vote as a fundamental decision to support it. In addition many spoke of the permissive structure of the bill which allows local communities to make their own decision as to whether to opt into the new process and allows them to walk away from the decision to move the election after 5 years if the process is not working for them.