In the ten towns to watch, budgets passed in Jersey City, Mendham Township, Millburn and Rutherford, and were rejected in Brick, Hamilton Township, Marlboro, West Deptford and Woodbridge. Results in Haddon Heights were not available.
Voters in more than 550 school districts will go to the polls today to cast a yes or no vote on their local school budget. In traditionally low turnout elections for seats on Boards of Education and in referendums to approve spending, voters tend to approve budgets in about 75% of municipalities. But the state’s $11 billion budget deficit has forced the governor to propose cutting state aid to local school districts by $820 million. Gov. Christopher Christie has told parents to vote against any school budget that does not include salary freezes for teachers and administrators. The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is spending money advocating the passage of local school budgets in a fight with some residents who oppose local property tax increase.
In 2009, voters defeated school budgets in 145 districts out of 551; an additional 62 districts passed their budgets with less than 53% of the vote. Click here to view the town-by-town results from last year, ranked in order of percentage.
Here are ten towns to watch:
Brick: Ocean County is the center of the New Jersey GOP universe, and voters in Brick defeated their school budget in 2009 by just 48 votes, 2288 to 2336.
Haddon Heights: The day after presenting his new budget to the Legislature, Gov. Chris Christie traveled to the Camden County suburb to hold a town meeting as he sought to sell a deficit reduction plan that included massive cuts in state aid to local school districts. Haddon Heights passed their budget with 63% of the vote last year.
Hamilton Township: Christie defeated Gov. Jon Corzine in this large, middle class town with a huge number of public employees. In 2009, voters voted down the school budget by 158 votes, a 52%-48% margin.
Jersey City: The state’s second largest city has cut their budget by 5%, but it carries with it a 10% property tax hike. Last year, voters passed the budget with 60% of the vote. Commissioner of Education Bret Schundler is a former Jersey City mayor.
Marlboro: Christie has pointedly taken on public school teachers in Marlboro, bashing a five-year contract that gave teachers 4.5% annual raises with zero contribution to health-care benefits. In 2009, local voters passed the budget by a wide margin, 1881 to 1202 (61%-39%). Christie beat Corzine in Marlboro by nearly 3,000 votes.
Mendham Township: Voters in Gov. Christie’s hometown approved their budget in 2009 489 to 409, a 54%-46% margin.
Millburn: New Jersey Monthly magazine ranked Millburn High School as the best in the state, and voters in this well-to-do Essex suburb approved the school budget last year with 67% of the vote.
Rutherford: The politically competitive town in South Bergen gave Corzine a 268 vote plurality over Christie last year, and passed their school budget by 112 votes, 54%-46%.
West Deptford: The hometown of Senate President Stephen Sweeney passed their school budget in 2009, 678 to 457, a 60%-40% margin.
Woodbridge: Republican Chris Christie beat Corzine in this large, working class Middlesex County town by almost 2,000 votes. In 2009, voters passed the school budget by 1,100 votes, 58%.