- See also: School bond and tax elections in New Jersey
New Jersey is one of two states that require voter approval for a school district's annual budget. The budget must be approved by voters during a specially designated school election in April. Also, New Jersey strictly mandates that if any school district seeks to do capital improvements must have the approval of the district's voters. All bond funding is guaranteed through the New Jersey Public Schools Loan Assistance Fund. In order to keep operating, the State of New Jersey must have $105 million on hand at the bare minimum to issue bonds during every fiscal cycle. Also, a ballot question is required if a school district seeking to exceed its levy limits does not get authorization from the New Jersey Commissioner of Education to exceed its limit. A three-fifths (60%) super majority is required for levy limit elections while bond referendums require a simple majority.
New Jersey School Elections, April 20, 2010
There were a large number of school budget and tax increase measures on the April 20, 2010 ballot in New Jersey. Of the 479 proposed budgets, only 260 passed, giving credit to the Mayor who urged voters to reject their school budgets after he cut school money. The state faced a large deficit and as a result school spending was greatly reduced, leading most school district to try and cover the lost costs with larger budgets and increases in property taxes. The state budget deficit is estimated at around $10.7 million with the cuts to the schools around 5 percent.
Some school officials came out to say they believed the high rate of defeat was largely due to the Mayor and his words to defeat the budgets, leaving most of the issues to the local level. Voter turnout for the election was also much higher than anticipated larger than any previous school election. Further cuts are expected, most school officials though are unsure what will end up being cut, staff and programs. Board officials are trying to negotiate as best they can to ensure as many jobs can be kept as possible.
It was noted that this is the largest defeat of budgets since 2006. A resident leaving the polls responded to why he voted no, stating that the teachers need to do the same as other companies, cut back and cut down. While some residents could not understand why small increase in overall property taxes would be defeated if it meant securing the future of kids in schools. It was also noted that resident had more knowledge about the school elections than usual, leading to the higher amount of turnout for the vote.