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12-16-11 November School Elections bill approved by Senate Committee
Asbury Park Press - School elections bill advances in Assembly

“...The bill, which ends a century of practice and also permits the end of school budget votes, passed a state Senate committee despite the warnings from two state clerks... The bill...passed a state Senate committee despite the warnings from two state clerks... Melfi, and Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello, said it would be impossible to fit so much information on current ballots... State Sen. Robert M. Gordon, D-Bergen, said he could envision “a municipal council working to take over a school board, helping to sponsor candidates…and taking advantage of the heavy turnout.”He voted for the bill...Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, which represents suburban school districts, questioned a provision in the bill that would let municipal governments unilaterally decide to move school elections...”

 Asbury Park Press - School elections bill advances in Assembly

11:55 PM, Dec. 15, 2011 |  By Jason Method

TRENTON — The state will need to spend $12 million for new voting machines if a bill that helps to move school elections to November is passed, officials said Thursday.

The bill, which ends a century of practice and also permits the end of school budget votes, passed a state Senate committee despite the warnings from two state clerks.

It is now poised for votes in both chambers of the state Legislature.

Mary H. Melfi, the Hunterdon County Clerk, told a Senate committee that it would be nearly impossible for school elections to be contained on many voting machine ballots.

Some November ballots, Melfi noted, have long questions that are presented to voters. Others need to be printed bilingually.

Some communities, particularly large cities, might have as many as 50 candidates for school boards.

Melfi, and Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello, said it would be impossible to fit so much information on current ballots alongside political candidates that could run from the U.S. President to the township council.

Some speakers also raised concerns about political parties or municipal governing bodies taking over school boards.

State Sen. Robert M. Gordon, D-Bergen, said he could envision “a municipal council working to take over a school board, helping to sponsor candidates…and taking advantage of the heavy turnout.”

He voted for the bill.

Lynn Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, which represents suburban school districts, questioned a provision in the bill that would let municipal governments unilaterally decide to move school elections.

She wondered if that would upset the local balance of political power.

Under the legislation, school board elections may be moved to the November general election if that switch is approved by a school board, municipal governing body or a petition signed by 15 percent of the voters.

Once moved, the school budget would only face voter approval if the fiscal plan exceeds the state's property tax cap, which calls for a two percent increase in the tax levy, except for health insurance and pension costs.

If it does exceed the cap, voters will decide in November whether to approve the extra expenditures.

Despite the questions raised Thursday, the bill appears to have support from Republicans and Democrats as well as the large state education groups.

Jason Method: (609) 292-5158; jmethod@ njpressmedia.com

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
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