August 28, 2013
Re: A-248/S-2458, Defeated School Budget Deadline
In June the New Jersey General Assembly unanimously passed A-248, which requires the Commissioner of Education to change the deadline for municipal review of defeated school budgets whenever she or he changes the annual school election date. A-248/S-2458 addresses an oversight that has created an inadequate time frame for governing bodies to act upon a defeated school budget. The League enthusiastically supports A-248/S-2458 and thanks Assemblymen Schaer and Diegnan and Assemblywoman DeCroce for supporting and advancing this important legislation.
A-248 now joins its Senate companion, S-2458, sponsored by Senator Anthony Bucco, and is referenced to the Senate Education Committee.
On January 12, 2009, then-Governor Corzine signed into law P.L. 2008, c. 129, which permits the Commissioner of the Department of Education to change a school board election date that coincides with a period of religious observance.
April 2011 was the first time the annual school board election date was changed from Tuesday, April 19th to Wednesday, April 27th, due to Passover. As municipalities, in which a school budget was rejected, began the process to review and make recommendations on the rejected budget, an apparent oversight came to light. While P.L. 2008, c. 129 permits the change of Election Day it did not change the statutory deadline for municipalities to make a final determination on the rejected school board budget.
N.J.S.A. 18A:13-19, for regional school districts, and N.J.S.A. 18A:22-37, for single school districts, outline the procedure following school board budget rejection. Both statues require that the governing bodies, after consultation with the board, and no later than May 19, to certify the amount for the ensuing school year.
In 2014 this will be an issue again. The Commissioner of Education has already moved the 2014 School Board Election Date from April 15, which is the first day of Passover, to Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
The process to review a rejected school budget, especially those of a regional school district, are challenging under normal circumstances. The municipalities must not only review the budget material but coordinate schedules with the school board, county business administrator and other governing body members. In addition, the municipalities and school board must comply with the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act. And at some point, the governing body must hold a public meeting to take official action.
When acting upon a defeated school budget most municipalities need the full four weeks to thoroughly review the budget, consult with the school board and receive public input on the budget before taking final action. In 2011, however, this process was reduced to a two to three week process and in 2014 it will be reduced again, making a complex process much more challenging.
Municipalities need the full four weeks to review a defeated budget to be thoughtful and deliberative in their decision. Any less time to review will just lead to a rush job that will negatively impact the community.
A-248/S-2458 provides that whenever the Commissioner changes the date of the annual school election, the Commissioner must also change the May 19th deadline. The bill also provides that the Commissioner must ensure that the changed deadline provides the same number of days as if the date of the annual school election had not been changed and the May 19th deadline was still in place.
Please contact your State Senator and urge them to vote yes on S-2458.
If you have any questions or need additional information please do not hesitate to contact Lori Buckelew at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481 x112.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.