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January 6, 2014

RE: Defeated School Budget Review Remedy Signed Into Law

Dear Mayor:

Today in Trenton, Governor Chris Christie signed into law A-248/S-2458, which will require the Commissioner of Education to extend the deadline for municipal review of defeated school budgets whenever he or she changes the annual school election date. Introduced at our request, this bill was shepherded through the legislature by Assemblyman Gary Schaer and Senator Tony Bucco.

This bill was necessitated by a problem brought to our attention by Allentown Mayor Stu Fierstein. On January 12, 2009, then-Governor Jon 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.

In 2011, in compliance with the statute, the annual school board election date was changed from Tuesday, April 19 to Wednesday, April 27, 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 (May 19).

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.

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.

The new law provides that whenever the Commissioner changes the date of the annual school election, the Commissioner must also change the May 19 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 19 deadline was still in place.

We want to thank Allentown Mayor Fierstein for bringing this matter to our attention, Assemblyman Schaer and Senator Bucco for their leadership in advancing the remedy, all members of the State Senate(where it passed 34-0) and the General Assembly (78-0) who voted in favor of the bill and the Governor for his timely consideration and favorable response. We also commend League Senior Legislative Analyst Lori Buckelew for her work on this bill, from the time the problem arose to the day the remedy was signed into law.

If you have any questions on this, please contact Ms. Buckelew at 609-695-3481, ext. 112 or lbuckelew@njslom.com

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

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