Hope you are enjoying a pleasant summer! On July 10 the Board of Ed sent the following letter to the community regarding the Annual School Election:
Dear Community Members,
On July 3rd, Heather Mailander, Village Manager, notified us by e-mail that the Village Council would be discussing moving the Board of Education election from November to April at their July 11th meeting and at their July 18th meeting they may consider adoption of a resolution to change the election date effective April, 2019.
The Board of Education supports the idea of engaging the public in discussions on moving the Board elections from November to April. However, we believe that it is a discussion that should take place at our Board of Education meetings this Fall, after our residents have returned from summer vacation.
In order to move a School Board election from November to April, notice must be given to the county clerk no less than 85 days prior to the third Tuesday in April to take effect for that year’s election. That would be January 21, 2019. Therefore, there is sufficient time for us to thoughtfully consider this change and to provide adequate time to collect input from our residents.
By way of background:
In the past, School Board elections and budget approvals were conducted in April every year.
On January 17, 2012 Governor Christie signed legislation that permitted communities to move the April annual school board member election to November, while, at the same time eliminating the vote on a district’s proposed budget so long as that is at or below the tax levy cap, including defined allowable waivers. School districts that voted to move their elections to November were prohibited from moving the election back to April until four November School elections had occurred. In 2016, the state extended that moratorium by two years. That moratorium expired May 31, 2018.
The Ridgewood Board of Education originally refrained from moving our election to November until almost two years after the law permitting us to do so had passed, preferring to observe the impact of this law across the state. After discussing this issue at several public meetings during 2013, and after publishing multiple articles in The Ridgewood News encouraging the public to provide feedback, we elected, in a 4-1 vote, to move the election in our public meeting of November 18, 2013.
Currently, a total of 528 or 97% of the New Jersey school districts have moved their annual school election from April to November, and only15, or 3% hold their annual school election in April. Only 5 of Bergen County’s 76 districts vote in April.
The major reasons considered by the Board for moving the election to November were as follows:
● Declining voter participation rate in the April elections. In April 2013, voter turnout hit an historic low with fewer than thirteen percent of voters casting a ballot. We believed that voter participation would increase if the school election were combined with the general election.
● Election costs. The district has saved over $43,000 per annum by combining the school election with the general election in the Fall. The Board has not been assessed any costs associated with the November elections.
● During the period in which we held our public discussions, we received a small number of emails and only eight members of the public spoke at public comment on the issue of moving the election. Three favored moving the election to November, four did not, and one was non-commital.
● And finally, moving the election to November brought the budget approval process in line with the way all New Jersey municipalities, counties, and the state decide on their budgets.
We on the Board look forward to speaking further with the public about this important issue this Fall.
The Ridgewood Board of Education Members