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School Board Approves Elimination of Public Budget Vote, Moves Elections to November

Bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Chris Christie allows school boards to make the changes

Just days after Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill allowing school boards to move elections to November and forgo a public budget vote, members of Manchester's voted in favor of adopting the changes locally. 

On Tuesday, Christie signed legislation into law that states a school board that moves its election to November no longer needs to present its budget for a public vote if it does not exceed the state's 2 percent tax levy cap, NJ.com reports. Should a district exceed the cap, a public vote on the budget would be held in November with the election of board members. Additionally, budoutgets will still require approval from the Commissioner of Education. 

"In assessing the proposed law, at least in my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons," said Manchester Board of Education president Donald Webster.

Webster said that, although the board has "some reservations" with the law including how referendum votes will work and whether partisan politics could come into play, the changes should be beneficial. 

Webster said that in 1903 school board elections were legislated to be held in April to avoid the partisan politics associated with the general election. Manchester's municipal government has been nonpartisan since 1990.

Last year, as has happened in years past, the school district's $50 million budget. A weeks-long process involving meetings between the township council and board of education led to a . Under the new law, this can be avoided provided the budget does not exceed the 2 percent cap.

"This will be a big help for us," said Superintendent of Schools David Trethaway.

Webster read the resolution into the record since it was not originally included on the January 18 regular meeting agenda.

"The Manchester Township Board of Education has determined that the statutory restrictions on the local tax levy increase for annual school appropriations is appropriate and sufficient to control and maintain a thorough and efficient education for the children of Manchester township," the resolution states.

The resolution further says that the change "will save taxpayer dollars" and "attract a far greater number of voters than typically vote in November elections." 

In 2010, township Clerk Sabina Skibo said 14,976 Manchester residents voted in the November general election, compared to the 6,540 who voted in the April school election.

The change must be in place for four years, according to the resolution.

Webster said that he and James Griffin will be the first board members up for election in November under the new schedule.

School elections cost Manchester about $42,000 last year, in part because the township has 39 voting districts.

"There is going to be some cost, but I think it will be a shared cost with the municipality," Webster said, adding that it remains unclear at this point what Manchester will pay for its school vote.

In the last general election, from May to November to save costs. The school board's change should save even more.

"Between the two, you're probably talking about $90-100,000," Webster said. 

The budget creation process will remain the same, Trethaway said.

"It's the same timeline," he said.

Budget presentations still will be given to the public, a process that begins next month when school administrators deliver reports to the board assessing their needs.

"Our budget is still going to be due [to the county] on March 5. It will still go through the regular review process," said business administrator Craig Lorentzen.

Webster said that he realizes some residents may be unhappy that they can no longer vote on the school district's spending plan, but it was a move that Christie wanted municipalities throughout the entire state to adopt.

"We'll probably get some criticism for it, but the governor was pushing for it," he said.

ray January 19, 2012 at 01:50 PM
only in NJ would they bring back taxation without representation and believe they are being progressive. Either that or they think nobody will notice, you know like that guy who tries to stick his hand in your pocket.
Manchester resident January 19, 2012 at 03:45 PM
learn A little more about history my friend before you put something down for all to see. the representation that you speak of you come as the governor the school board and the Senate, mayor that election were held for and you did or did not vote for.
Mark Wendell January 20, 2012 at 09:07 PM
They assume that a Nov election will get more voters to the polls. They "may" be right, but I think that it will be a bad thing for the Board of Education. Lets assume you do get more voters to the polls. Those that live in non senior comunities will still sit home instead of voting. The more voters will be from the senior villiages and you are now going to have even more trouble passing the budget.
Sandra Couto January 21, 2012 at 09:31 PM
The more people who vote, the better-so perhaps moving school board elections to November is a good thing. However, taking away the right to vote on the scholl budget-paid for with property tax dollars that come out of Manchester residents' pockets is just plain wrong & just one more matter about which we, the voters, loose any say.

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