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April 16, 2008

Re:      Type II School Budget Elections
                                                                                     (What Happened Yesterday and
What Happens Next)

Dear Mayor:

According to unofficial results compiled by the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), Voters approved approximately 74 percent of the proposed school budgets during the April 15 school elections. 

On Tuesday, voters in more than 90 percent of New Jersey’s school districts acted on proposed school budgets for 2008-2009 and elected candidates to fill 1,594 school board seats.

Tuesday’s 74-percent budget approval rate came on the heels of a $533 million increase in state aid for public schools. In 2007, voters approved 78 percent of the proposals after a state aid increase of approximately $300 million.  By comparison, voters approved only 52 percent of school budgets in 2006—which marked the fifth consecutive year of level state aid.

NJSBA officials attributed this year’s large number of budget approvals to the state aid increase, which ranged up to 20 percent in some districts, as well as to sound fiscal planning by local school districts.

Statewide, this year’s proposed school budgets reflected an average tax levy increase of less than 3 percent.  The average increase also represents a decline from the current year’s 4.3 percent increase and the 6.6 percent average tax levy increase in 2006-2007, according to Governor Corzine.

Following yesterday’s school budget and board of education elections, here is a brief description of what happens now.

Review of rejected budgets If voters rejected a base budget, the proposal is sent to the municipal governing body for review. The municipality can leave the budget intact, or make cuts.
By Thursday, April 17, election results must be certified, and within two days of that date, school boards must deliver rejected base budgets to municipal governing bodies for review.  The municipal governing body has until May 19 to consult with the school board and determine the amount of local property taxes to be raised for school purposes.

Under certain circumstances, a school board may appeal a municipality’s cuts to the school district’s base budget—if the cuts would undermine the school district’s financial stability, or if the cuts would prevent the school district from meeting state standards for a thorough education. Such budget appeals are uncommon.  School districts have 10 working days following completion of municipal review to file an appeal.

Starting this year, a defeated “second ballot question” (a referendum to exceed the cap for a specific purpose) no longer goes to the municipality for a review. The voters’ word is final. Barring a donation from outside, the program or service is lost for the year, and the school board can not fund the program or service by transferring money within the budget.

We hope this is helpful.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director


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