BOE Members Talk About Moving School Board Elections Back to April

In 2012, the Roselle Park Board Of Education (BOE) voted to move its school board elections from April to November. At that time, current BOE President Chris Miller, as well as member Troy Gerten, voted against the move. The Board at the time voted to move elections to coincide with the general election. Five years later, Mr. Gerten asked for information on moving the elections back to April. His inquiry was made following a comment by BOE member Sundjata Sekou at the May 9th BOE meeting about moving the school board elections back to its original election date in the spring of every year.

Half a decade ago, there were two major incentives to move school board elections to November. One had to do with saving a school district money by not having to pay for a separate election. At that time the figure was estimated to be around $13,000. If the school district held its elections during November, no additional cost would be incurred. The second incentive given was that the school budget would not go before voters if it stayed at or under a 2% tax levy cap. Previous to 2012, a school budget was voted on – in its entirety – by local voters. Since then, due to moving the elections to November, voters would only be allowed to approve or reject any amount over the 2% tax levy cap. If a school year budget went over 2%, voters could only vote on the amount over the 2%, not the entire school budget.

As with the incentives, there were two major concerns with moving the election to November. The first was that school year budgets go from July to the following June. If elections are held in November and there is an amount that goes over the 2% tax levy, voters would be voting on an already established budget and the district would have to retroactively go back and make cuts if the amount over 2% was rejected by voters three months after the school year started. The second concern was that the traditional right of voters to vote on the entire budget would be removed, thereby causing a safety buffer of a 2% increase in the amount raised by property taxpayers. The incentive to have a school board try to find the most financially efficient budget with – say – a 1% increase or 1.5% increase would be removed since the budget would be guaranteed up to 2%.

Mr. Sekou, during his reasoning for his ‘no’ vote on the 2017-18 school year budget, stated that one of his campaign promises was to have residents vote on the school budget by moving the election back to April.

Mr. Gerten added to Mr. Sekou’s recommendation to move the elections to their original April date.

“It was several years ago that we had that option as a board to move the elections from April to November. I sat on the board at that time. I voted no to moving it to November. Unfortunately, it moved,” said Mr. Gerten, “But if I recall there [were] some rules around how often you can even consider as a board moving it back to April.”

Mr. Gerten went on to say that he recalled there was a period that school districts could move back to April and asked for research to be done on that.

“Based on Mr. Sekou’s suggestion,” remarked Mr. Gerten, “I think it’s good to look at to take it back to April.”

BOE member Joseph Signorello stated he was proud of the 2017-18 school budget. He pointed out that the meeting was not attended by residents and added, “I believe it’s a good sign that there aren’t people here because they voted for us to support or redo [the budget].”

Mr. Signorello is one of two new BOE members who did not attend BOE meeting consistently until last year when he was running for a seat.

Earlier this year, the BOE was considering having a special election in September – which would have incurred a cost to taxpayers – to approve or reject lights at the Roselle Park Athletic Complex.

Research shows that in August of 2016, the state placed a two-year moratorium on moving the date of Type II school district’s annual school election from the day of general election in November back to the third Tuesday in April until May 31, 2018. It additionally created a study commission.

Based on that information, the Roselle Park BOE will be able to consider moving its school board (and budget) elections back to April next year around this time.