School Board Moves Its Election to November
The Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education voted on Monday to move its school board election from April to November, joining the 85 percent of other New Jersey school districts that have already done so.
The vote, which was 6 to 1 with two abstentions, would combine school board elections, formerly held on the third Tuesday in April, with the general election, held on the first Tuesday in November. This move would save taxpayers the $30,000 to $40,000 expense of holding a separate election. The change would also eliminate a vote on the tax levy to fund the school budget, as long as the levy stays within the state-imposed cap of a 2 percent increase. The school budget will continue to be reviewed by the Mercer County Executive Superintendent and the Executive County School Business Administrator, according to the resolution.
A change in state law last year allowed school boards, starting in 2012, to shift their elections to November. In Mercer County, only Hopewell, Princeton, and West Windsor-Plainsboro school boards did not change election dates last year. A total of 468 school districts moved their elections to November in 2012.
School Board President Lisa Wolff said there were several reasons for changing the date of the vote.
“On April 23, 2012, only 11.8 percent of Hopewell Valley registered voters came out to vote for school board members and the budget,” said Ms. Wolff. “Compare that to the more than 50 percent of voters who came out in November, and that means you have a lot more people engaged in the process. The change also saves taxpayers more than $30,000 in election costs.”
“And finally,” said Ms. Wolff, “voter presence at polling places in our schools could be viewed as a security risk, so there is an advantage to doing that once, rather than twice, a year.”
Ms. Wolff said the board did not switch the election date last year because members wanted to see how the new process proceeded in other districts.
The change will extend the terms of all school board members by seven months. Jim Wulf and Stephen Keen, who would have run for reelection in April 2013, said they were abstaining from the vote because of this extension. If they choose to run for another term, they will now run in the November 2013 election and be seated in January when the new board will now reorganize.
Board member Roy Dollard was the lone dissenting vote.
“I’d like to think the school vote should be separated from the national, political vote,” said Mr. Dollard. “They are two separate issues and I don’t want one influencing the other.”
The resolution will stay in effect until November 2015, when it will again be considered.