New Law Changes School Election Calendar

STATE – More than half of New Jersey’s 538 districts with elected school boards have taken advantage of a new law that allows them to switch from April to November elections, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association.

Under the law, signed last month by Gov. Chris Christie, school districts that switch to November elections would only have to put their annual budget on the ballot if it exceeds the state’s two percent levy cap. School board candidates would appear on the November general election ballot.

As of Tuesday, 315 districts had approved a switch from April to November elections, according to an unofficial tally by the New Jersey School Boards Association.

In Union County, 19 of 20 communities with elected school boards have opted to hold elections in November. Hillside’s school board is scheduled to vote on the issue Thursday night. (Summit has an appointed school board.)

In Middlesex County, Carteret, Dunellen, East Brunswick, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Middlesex, Monroe, North Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, South Amboy, South Brunswick, South Plainfield, South River and Spotswood will move their school board elections to November. Cranbury, Plainsboro and Sayreville have notified the County Clerk’s office that they intend to continue to hold elections in April.

Most school districts are citing the cost savings of eliminating the April election as the reason behind the move. In many communities, school elections have low voter turnout and it is hoped that by holding the school board elections in conjunction with November’s general elections more people will vote. The school board elections will remain non-partisan, and districts that switch will have to keep the new election date for at least four years.

According to guidelines issued by the New Jersey Department of Education, school districts have until Friday, Feb. 17, to adopt resolutions to switch the election date and notify their county clerks if they wish to hold elections this November.

In districts that keep the traditional April date – this year, April 17 – school board candidates must file their nomination petitions by Monday, Feb. 27. In districts that will hold school board election on Nov. 6, candidates have until Tuesday, June 5 to file nomination petitions.

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