Senate committee advances bill to let school elections shift to November

TRENTON – The Senate State Government Committee released a bill that would enable residents and governing bodies to move the school board elections from April to Novembers.

Every member voted to release it except Sen. Anthony Bucco, who abstained.

The bill – S3148 – is sponsored by Sen. Donald Norcross (D-5) of Camden, and would enable the move by one of three ways: 1.) a resolution supporting the move by the local Board of Education; 2.) a percentage of voters who voted in the last presidential election supporting the move through signatures; or 3.) a resolution by the municipal government supporting the move.

The base school budget wouldn’t be on the ballot unless the tax hike sought exceeds the 2 percent property tax cap, the legislation states.

Various groups expressed support for the legislation because it provides the public with a choice and would enable them to move the elections back to April after four years, if the move to November proves counter-productive.

Among the bill’s supporters were the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Association of Business Officials, the New Jersey School Boards Association, and the Garden State Coalition of Schools, among others.

But the support didn’t necessarily mean all the provisions for the bill were perfect with them.

For example, Lynne Strickland of the Garden State coalition feared that letting the municipal government alone decide to move a school board election amounts to an “imposition.”

“It’s a loss of checks and balances,” she said.

Still, committee members said it was their best hope to boost voter turnout, giving them more ability to control their property taxes.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15) of Trenton. “We have too many elections. Every time you open those machines, it costs taxpayers.”

Sen. Jim Whelan, the committee chairman, said the bill is “a lot closer to perfect” than a prior bill that was proposed in 2006 that was passed in the Assembly but got stalled in the Senate.

  Senate committee advances bill to let school elections shift to November