The state Division of Local Government Services has released its guidelines for the April 27 municipal levy cap referendum.
The statewide annual school board elections will be held that day, and this will be the first budget-year cycle in which school districts will have to deal with the 2 percent tax cap levy, according to Lori Buckelew, senior legislative analyst for the N.J. League of Municipalities.
The guidance issued by the state covers referenda on both the 2 percent local schools levy cap and the 2.5 percent appropriations cap.
The N.J. League of Municipalities pointed out that there is a tight deadline for towns to follow if they intend to hold a voter referendum seeking permission to go beyond the cap.
The issue will be highly watched, since last year, for the first time since 1976, voters rejected a majority of proposed school budgets, with only 41 percent being approved at the polls.
Procedures will vary depending on whether the school district is classified as a Type 1 or Type 2.
Type 1 districts have their board members appointed by a mayor, their levies are determined by the board of education and approved by the board of school estimates, and the debt is the municipality’s.
Type 2 districts have board members elected by voters, their levies are submitted to the electorate, and the debt is the school district’s debt.
According to the rules set out by the state, Type 2 districts will have the referendum on the same ballot as the school elections, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the municipality must assume 50 percent of the election costs.
In Type 1 districts, the hours will be 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the municipalities will be fully responsible for election costs.
In addition to having to deal with the 2 percent cap levy for the first time, districts also have to deal with the 2.5 percent cap levy on appropriations, or expenses, which has been in place since 1977, Buckelew explained.
If the governing body decides not to hold a referendum it must adopt a resolution and place a legal notice that a levy cap referendum will not be held on April 27. The final budget for municipalities conducting a referendum must be adopted by Friday, May 20.
And the League is urging towns to prepare in advance for what they will do in the event voters reject a referendum to exceed the cap.
The guidelines point out that referendum questions and any explanatory statements must be consistent with the Division of Local Government Services’ model and are due on April 8, or three days after adoption of a resolution by the governing body, whichever is sooner.
And governing bodies have to pass resolutions authorizing publication of the availability of mail-in ballots for ads that will be published by March 7.