COLTS NECK – Administrators in the Colts Neck K-8 School District are trying to head off a potential problem before it occurs.
When a bill that created a 4 percent cap on local school districts’ property tax levies was signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine in April, a part of that law came into existence that could begin to have an effect on school districts in April 2008.
According to the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), because of that legislation, second ballot questions that are proposed by local school boards as part of the annual budget election “will have to receive affirmative votes by 60 percent of the voters who participate in the school election.”
The 60 percent standard is referred to as a supermajority.
This is a change from the previous standard which only required a second ballot question to be approved by a simple majority.
According to the NJSBA, “second ballot questions request specific programs, items or services that, in most cases, involve expenditures above (the budget) cap. In addition to imposing a supermajority approval requirement, the new law also eliminates the authority of municipal governing bodies to review defeated second questions and allow the levying of taxes for all or part of the (second ballot question) proposals.”
At its Nov. 29 meeting, the Colts Neck Board of Education passed a resolution that requests its legislative representatives and the governor “to amend (the law) to eliminate the provision of a supermajority (60 percent) vote for school district special questions and restore the principle of ‘one person, one vote’ in the state of New Jersey.”
The board’s resolution states that “low voter turnout (often less than 15 percent) for school budget questions often means that success or failure is often based on very low margins” and goes on to assert that “this (supermajority) requirement violates all principles of majority rule and gives those persons who vote in the negative greater voice and control in their respective communities.”
The Nov. 9 edition of the NJSBA’s “School Board Notes” publication states that “statistics compiled by NJSBA show that in April 2007, 87 second ballot questions were proposed by 65 school districts. Voters approved 46 percent of the questions. If the 60-percent requirement had been in place, the percentage of approved second questions would have decreased to 25 percent, according to an analysis by the state school business officials association.”
NJSBAdata “indicate that over 30 percent of the second questions on last spring’s ballot called for maintaining existing staff or programs. When broken down according to program or service, close to two-thirds of the second questions addressed the hiring or continued employment of certificated staff.”