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Reform Legislation Will Let Voters More Control of Local Finances, Save Millions

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Paul Moriarty and Wayne DeAngelo to give municipalities a choice to move April school elections to November was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.
The bill (A-4394) provides three methods by which they may move their school elections from April to the date of the November general election.
“Politicians and pundits have talked about doing this for years, but special interests and inertia have prevented progress on this important issue–until today,” said Greenwald (D-Camden), the budget chairman and incoming Assembly majority leader. “Empowering towns to move their school elections to November will give voters better control of their local finances while saving property taxpayers the costs of holding yet another local election.”
“April’s school elections have become a costly charade,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex), a resident of Hamilton Township, Mercer County, where the district budget has been voted-down, only to have the election overturned by state education officials. “Ultimate fiscal responsibility and accountability should rest with a school board elected in November by a majority of voters.”
“November school elections would offer increased accountability while reducing unnecessary election costs,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “This is common sense solution that would go a long way toward controlling government spending and property taxes and ensuring more public participation in our democracy. Those are all good things.”
The bill provides several methods by which a school district’s annual school election can be moved to the date of November’s general election. Specifically, a district’s school election could be moved to November:
· Upon the adoption of a resolution by the governing body of the municipality;
· Upon the adoption of a resolution by the municipality’s board of education; or;
· If a petition signed by 15 percent of the legally qualified voters who voted in the immediately preceding presidential election is filed with the municipality’s board of education
“A 2011 report estimated that, on average, only about 15 percent of New Jersey voters participate in school elections,” Greenwald said. “With school finances by far the largest portion of a property tax bill and education among the top quality of life concerns for our residents, we need to empower more voters to make decisions on issues that directly impact them and their communities.”
Towns that successfully move their school elections to November will not be permitted to move their election back to the third Tuesday in April until at least four school elections have been held in November. For limited purpose regional school districts, each of the constituent local school districts must approve moving the election to November.
The bill was released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.