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Unanimous Approval in Oradell to Move School Board Election

New legislation allowed local school boards to change elections, school budget votes.

Oradell’s  unanimously voted Wednesday to move the school board election to November and eliminate a public vote on the district budget, provided it stays within a state-mandated tax levy increase cap.

"Districts whose budgets are repeatedly defeated are jumping on this, as well as districts where the budget passes," Board member Louis Ferrante said. "From a dollar and cents issue this makes sense because the cost to hold an election would be one-third of what it is now."

The district budget would only go to voters if it exceeded the 2 percent tax levy cap. The K-6 district's budget has not been defeated at the polls for the past few years as the Board of Ed and school administrators have worked to keep the tax levy increase flat. 

Board member Gregory Derian questioned if by moving the election, would the board be reducing the level of transparency for the process.

"You still need to have a public hearing, publish the budget in the newspaper and post it online," interim superintendent Dr. Maria Nuccetelli said. "The budget hearing in March will still be held, but after that meeting the budget is official."

Any school budget exceeding the 2 percent cap would still go to voters in November. The state Education Department would also still review the budgets. 

The Board will present their 2012-13 budget to the public at their March 28 meeting.

"This will place a greater responsiblity on the Board of Education during the public hearing to make it a place for residents to be received," board member Katherine Norian said. "We have to encourage people to come."

Oradell’s vote came after Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Tuesday allowing school boards statewide to change elections and eliminate budget referendums. Proponents of the  have said it would boost voter turnout in sometimes-sleepy April school board elections statewide.

The change will impact Oradell's upcoming election, with three board members now facing a November election. Board members elected in November would take office in January. But for the past few years, the election for board members has not been an issue as current members did not face contested races.

Anne Reynolds January 26, 2012 at 12:41 PM
The cap is 2% on what? What is allowed outside that 2%? What loopholes exist that don't apply to the 2% cap? Good by transparency about the budget. Anne Reynolds
Eamon Harbord (Editor) January 26, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Hi Anne, The 2% cap is on how much the board can raise the tax levy each year based on the prior year's budget. exceptions are made for school districts if there is a large boom in enrollment (ie if a large number of students from st. joseph transferred to OPS), a large increase in healthcare premiums, or capital projects to maintain the building's structure. there are then different loopholes for a municipal budget to go over the 2% cap: debt service (bonding), rising health benefit and pension costs or a state of emergency (Irene, blizzard, etc).

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