The voted Thursday to move the school board election to November and all but eliminated a public vote on the district tax levy beginning this year.
The tax levy would only go to voters if it exceeded a state-mandated 2 percent cap.
“This does not give us carte blanche to do whatever we want,” said Board President Donald Pavlak Jr. “There are still hard decisions to be made. Even at the 2 percent cap, we’re still looking at cutting a substantial amount of money out of the budget to get to or under the cap.”
Pavlak said that the district’s budget process and transparency with residents will not change. The state Education Department and county superintendent will still review the budget. At least two public hearings, one at each high school, will be held before the Board approves the budget.
The change will impact this year’s election, with two board members, Kim Essen and Jane Hutchinson, running this year. The measure will remain in effect until 2015.
Officials said they can now develop a four-year, comprehensive financial plan rather than go year to year like they have in the past. The uncertainty of what the district would receive in state aid, and planning on year-to-year basis, made it difficult to get a clear long-term picture of the district’s finances.
“It puts us in a much stronger financial position where we can now project out,” Pavlak said. “Even with the 2 percent cap, how much are we getting in state aid? We don’t know. How can you put a budget together when you don’t know what one of your revenue lines is going to be? You have to base the budget on what we got last year. How do you create financial stability by doing that? You can’t.”
Proponents of the new law hope the move will increase the number of people who vote in the election. On average, only about 10 percent of registered voters go to the polls for school board elections. Pavlak said there have been years where the turnout has been even less than that in Wayne.
The move will save the district approximately $50,000 annually.
Voters narrowly .
The defeat allowed the .
Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation earlier this week allowing school boards statewide to make the changes.
The New Jersey School Boards Association expressed support for the new law, noting the public doesn’t vote on other government budgets.
“Proposed budgets undergo thorough review by the state Department of Education to ensure efficiency, and they are controlled by the same 2-percent tax levy cap as are municipal and county budgets, which are not presented to voters,” New Jersey School Boards Association Executive Director Marie Bilik said in a statement.
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