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School budget elections disappearing in New Jersey


School budget elections disappearing in New Jersey

April 12, 2014, 11:28 AM Last updated: Saturday, April 12, 2014, 11:28 AM
Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Just a few years ago, April school elections were a key date on New Jersey’s political calendar, the time most of the state’s voters had — but ignored — the chance to say yes or no to property tax increases.

Now, the only-in-New Jersey votes hardly exist.

Just 26 of the state’s 585 school districts will hold elections April 23. That’s 15 fewer than last year.

The change is a result of a law that, starting in 2012, allowed schools to save money and duck public outrage by moving school board elections to November and scrap votes on the tax levy. School budgets are the biggest component of New Jersey property tax bills, which average more than $8,000, the highest in the nation.

The conversion has been faster than expected, and it has come without much complaint.

Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said his group doesn’t believe the school budgeting process has changed much because the direct vote on tax levies associated with school budgets is a thing of the past in most communities.

The budgets, he says, are still subject to a cap on how much administrative expenses can grow, still get reviewed by state education officials and are still subject to public hearing. And those that call for property tax increases of about 2 percent still must be voted on — unless the bigger increases are because of certain exceptions.

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