Voters Decide 2014 School Ballot Questions
This article was originally published in School Board Notes on November 12, 2014.
Voters in 16 school districts faced ballot questions related to their schools on Nov. 4, ranging from construction projects, to requests for funding above the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap, to changing the make-up of their school boards.
The November General Election is one of the days that New Jersey school districts can vote on bond issues or other school questions. A total of 18 questions – several districts put forth more than one – were on ballots around the state on Nov. 4.
The majority of questions pertained either to bond issue referenda for construction proposals, or requests for additional budgetary spending. While boards do not submit their entire budgets for voter approval in November, they may place a question on the ballot seeking voter approval to spend above the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap.
In addition, two school districts saw questions related to board operations. In Bayonne, in Hudson County, voters approved a proposal changing their school board from an appointed board to an elected one. The question was placed on the ballot by the Bayonne City Council.
In Cape May County, residents of the Lower Cape May Regional School District were asked to vote on changing the way their regional district is funded, from a formula based on property valuation, to pupil enrollment. That proposal was defeated.
The General Election day is one of five dates on which a school board may propose a question to voters, for those districts that elect school board members in November. The last day remaining in the year, for special elections, is December 9.
In addition to the ballot questions, some 1,848 candidates ran for 1,497 open school board seats in 514 districts across the state on Tuesday. The ratio of candidates to available seats was 1.23:1, which has held steady over the past three years.
Below is a summary of ballot questions and results:
Eleven Budget Questions
- Medford Lakes (Burlington County) — DEFEATED — $76,133 to off-set, and be in lieu of, a Pay-to-Play Sports Program. Approval may have resulted in a permanent increase in the district tax levy.
- Mansfield (Burlington County) – DEFEATED — $268,282 for full-day kindergarten, including salaries, benefits, technology, furniture, supplies and material. Approval would result in a permanent increase in the tax levy.
- Mansfield (Burlington County) — DEFEATED — $220,000 to upgrade security at John Hydock and Mansfield Township elementary schools, to include new security entrance doors, intercom system and card readers. Approval would not have resulted in a permanent increase in the district tax levy.
- Haddon Heights (Camden County) – APPROVED — $189,265 to maintain a high school art teacher, varsity club, Scribe newspaper and numerous other clubs; plus junior high school track, swimming transportation and marching band instruments; plus various Chromebook, laptop and technology upgrade purchases. Approval will result in a permanent increase in the tax levy.
- Allenhurst (Monmouth County) – APPROVED — $150,000 permanent tax levy adjustment, to allow the district to sustain its budget after a fund balance was exhausted.
- Manalapan-Englishtown Regional (Monmouth County) DEFEATED — $1,100,000 to purchase ten fully-equipped 54-passenger school buses. Approval would not result in a permanent increase in the tax levy.
- Neptune City (Monmouth County) – APPROVED — $360,000 for field trips, extra-curricular activities, school-sponsored athletics, restoration of full-time Spanish, and purchase of computers. Approval will result in a permanent increase to the tax levy.
- Pittsgrove (Salem County) – DEFEATED — $128,000 to fund winter track, enhanced co-curricular activities and an additional early learning literacy program for preschool children. Approval would result in a permanent increase in the district tax levy.
- Andover Regional (Sussex County) – DEFEATED — $82,362 for a full-time guidance counselor and a part-time art/elementary teacher. Approval would result in a permanent increase in the tax levy.
- Andover Regional (Sussex County) – DEFEATED — $57,830 for installation of security devices on six exterior doorways, and for one middle school computer lab. Approval would result in a one-time increase in the tax levy.
- Lopatcong (Warren County) – DEFEATED — $335,000 to expand kindergarten to a full-day program. Approval would result in a permanent increase in the tax levy.
Decisions made by the voters is final, there is no appeal process to the state.
Five Construction Proposals
- Estell Manor (Atlantic County) – APPROVED — $2,170,994 to replace the HVAC system, roof, and install a new emergency generator at the elementary school. Includes $783,994 in state funds; $153,000 from district capital reserve; and $1,234,000 in bonds.
- Merchantville (Camden County) – APPROVED — $2,000,000 for improvements and renovations to Merchantville Elementary School. Includes $738,289 in state funds.
- Roosevelt (Monmouth County) – APPROVED — $844,000 for facilities upgrade at the public school, to include $337,662 in state funds.
- Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional (Salem County) – APPROVED — $20,109,589 to undertake various improvements at five schools. Includes $13,509,589 in state funds, and $600,000 school district capital reserve funds.
- Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional (Salem County) – APPROVED — $19,845,745 for various improvements and renovations to Woodstown High/Middle School and Mary S. Shoemaker Elementary School. Includes $7,938,299 in state funds.
Two Other Questions
- Lower Cape May Regional School District (Cape May County) – DEFEATED – Question would modify the tax allocation formula for the school district, from the current formula based on property tax valuations, to a formula based solely on pupil enrollment.
- Bayonne (Hudson County) – APPROVED – Proposal changes the board of education from an appointed board, to an elected board.