15 Sep 2014
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School Board Elections Move To November

No public vote on district budget, unless it exceeds 2 percent tax levy increase

School Board Elections Move To November

The Board of Education in a special meeting Tuesday voted unanimously to move its annual elections to November.

The school board called the extra session to beat a deadline of Feb. 17 imposed by the state Department of Education to decide whether to move the elections to November, when statewide elections are held. 

In a Jan. 25 letter from Christopher D. Cerf, acting commissioner of the state Department of Education, districts were asked to let their county clerks know by the middle of February whether they were going to hold annual elections in November or keep them in April.

No member of the public spoke at the lightly attended, 10-minute meeting. The vote was 9-0.

“It does not mean that it hasn’t been considered for almost two years now. It’s not a new proposal,’’ said board member Deidre Kukucka prior to the vote. “It’s something that has been in the works for two years now. It’s not something that we’ve rushed into or haven’t given any thought to.’’

Gov. Chris Christie on Jan. 17 signed into law a bill allowing school boards to move their elections to November, when national and statewide elections are held. Boards that make the move also do not need to present the district's budget for voter approval if it does not exceed the state-mandated 2 percent tax levy cap.

If the levy exceeds the 2 percent cap, it would need voter approval. Budgets will still require approval from the commissioner of state Department of Education.

Voters rarely pass a school district budget in Wall. Prior to last year's budget, voters defeated every budget dating back to 2000, with the sole exception of the budget in 2008.

Board member Anne Moonan read a prepared statement prior to the vote, saying she had reservations about the move, but had decided that the benefits outweighed any trouble she may have had with the move.

“My decision on this matter does not come lightly,’’ Moonan said.

Board President John Tavis praised the idea of moving the elections, saying it struck the right balance between community input and fiscal responsibility.

“If we can develop a budget that is at or below a 2 percent increase then I feel we are being fiscally responsible,’’ Tavis said. “For a budget like this to go down would be an injustice to the students and the community. This new bill would prevent that from happening.’’

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