New Jerseyans gripe about their property taxes but turn out in small numbers for the April school board elections that largely determine how high they will be.
Could moving them to November increase voter turnout - and save money?
The Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a bill that gives school districts, towns, and voters the power to decide whether to move school elections to coincide with the general elections in November. Doing that would also eliminate the requirement to hold a vote on school budgets - unless the school districts propose to increase their tax levies more than the state-imposed 2 percent cap.
The new timetable could be adopted if at least 15 percent of district voters who cast their ballots in the last election for Assembly sign a petition approving it.
Alternatively, a town or board of education could move the school elections to November simply by adopting a resolution to that effect.
Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D., Camden), a sponsor of the measure, said the move would, for instance, save the Cherry Hill School District $175,000 by not having a separate election. "What's important is now people will start to realize that two-thirds of their property-tax bill is involved in this election," said Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), another sponsor of the bill, referring to the fact that school spending accounts for 60 percent of residents' tax bills.
"You can make a difference and do it all at one time, and that's November, and I think that's the most important aspect of what we're dealing with here," Norcross said.
The New Jersey School Boards Association supports the proposal, with a caveat.
Spokesman Frank Belluscio said the association was in favor of letting school boards make the call but opposed allowing town governments to make a decision on moving the election date. The bill was introduced in the Senate Thursday.