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POLL: Does Moving South Brunswick School Elections Take Away Right to Choose?

Vote in the poll and tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Earlier this month the South Brunswick School District, like hundreds of other districts around the state, voted to move the annual school election from April to November. Officials estimated this could save the district $36,000 and the township $14,000 on the cost of running the April election.

By moving the election, the legislation eliminates a budget vote entirely for spending that falls within the 2 percent tax cap. 

This also moves the vote on board of education candidates to November, who will now be elected along with political seats ranging from the township council to the President of the United States. Ballots would include school board candidates in a separate section of the general ballot, and candidates "will not be aligned with any political party or partisan candidates," according to the DOE.

The state's rationale for eliminating a budget vote is that the districts that keep within the 2 percent cap are budgeting responsibly, so there is no need to put the budgets to a public vote. 

By moving the school election to November, the district has also committed to having November elections for the next four years.

Superintendant Gary McCartney said the district would still be holding public hearings on the budget as they had in previous years. Dr. McCartney said he was in favor of the move because if a budget that falls within the 2 percent cap were to be defeated, that budget base would be lowered for the following school budget election.

"If you have a series of budgets that fail you can never make that up," he said earlier this month. "That affects students and teachers."

South Brunswick voters approved the 2011-12 school budget by a margin of 2,161 to 1,546.  Taxpayers approved a $95 million general fund levy that carried a 12.2 cent tax rate increase, which raised the school tax rate to $2.802 per $100 of assessed valuation. A township home with an assessed value of $200,000 saw an increase of about $244 in school taxes under the approved budget ($20.33 per month) and a home assessed at $300,000 saw an increase of about $366 ($30 per month).

Critics of the move have said eliminating the budget vote takes away the public's right to choose and inhibits their role in the process. Critics have also said it affects transparency in the process. There are additional concerns about the move to November turning school board elections into partisan politics.

Proponents have said the move makes obvious fiscal sense and the public doesn't have the right to vote on other budgets, such as the municipal budget.

What are your thoughts on school elections moving to November? Do you think it removes the right to choose for South Brunswick voters? Or do you think during a recession this is the right move to save money and reward districts that fall within the 2 percent cap?

HF48 February 23, 2012 at 02:54 PM
School board elections in April had a ridiculously low percentage of the voters participating. Since we live in a Republic rather than a Democracy, we elect representatives who are supposed to work in the best interests of the public (ideally!). We don't get to vote directly on any other budgets or legislative matters except rarely in a referendum which has it's own set of rules.
Joe R February 23, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Surprise, a representative democracy is a kind of republic. A republic is a form of democracy. A republic IS a representative democracy. The USA is a representative democracy or a republic. I know there are a lot of right wing democracy haters out there, they hate saying that America is a democracy because it sounds too much like Democrat. It's not either or, it's much more nuanced than that. Of course, America is not a direct democracy but it is a representative democracy or republic.
Truthteller February 24, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Bad poll question moving the vote does not take away the boards responsibility. The board must still hold public budget hearings for the public.
Marty Abschutz February 25, 2012 at 12:32 PM
The 2% cap is on the total tax levy, i.e., the total collected from local taxes, not on the tax rate. Since the tax base has been declining in the past few years, the tax total amount collected could go down and we still might see an increase in the tax rate. The Board has a responsibility to bring forward a responsible budget. The Executive County Superintendent still reviews the budget for reasonableness each year before the Board votes on it at the Public Hearing. As part of that county review process, the Board was forced to reduce the number of paraprofessionals we have in the schools, a few years ago.
Marty Abschutz March 01, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Public Budget Hearing is March 26.

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