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Christie Previously Signed Law to Consolidate Elections to Save Money

1:01 PM, Jun 4, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The New York Times reports today that New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Republican, is considering setting a special election for the vacant New Jersey Senate seat ahead of the already scheduled November election. This move, as the Times reports, could cost around $24 million: 

"The alternative, lawyers in both parties said, would be for Mr. Christie to set a primary election as early as August, which would mean a special election in October. This would leave Democrats in a stronger position to win the seat. Mr. Booker, in particular, benefits from a high national profile and strong fund-raising, though he would be quite likely to face a primary challenge. But it would also open Mr. Christie to accusations that he was wasting some $24 million in taxpayer money by holding those two extra elections ahead of the regular November balloting for self-interested political reasons."

Interestingly, this would seem to contradict a measure taken by Christie last year. In a move aimed at saving money, the New Jersey governor last year signed a bill to consolidate local elections.

Here's what Christie had to say then about that move:

“After decades in Trenton of fruitlessly discussing the idea of moving school district elections to November, leaders in this state today have again demonstrated that we can get things done for the people of New Jersey when we work together,” said Governor Christie. “This bipartisan tool kit bill finally gives real pathways for school boards or voters to move district elections to November, providing the bright prospect for both local government savings and increased voter participation in the process. With this legislation now law, I urge school board members and voters in every one of our districts to act as quickly as possible to take hold of these benefits.”

And here's a press release:

Governor Signs November Election Option

TRENTON, January 17, 2012—Governor Christie has signed legislation, S-3148, that gives communities the option of moving the annual election of school board members to November, according to a release issued today by the Assembly Majority Office. In school districts that change the election date, the annual base budget—that is, the proposed budget at or below the school district's tax levy cap—will no longer be placed before the voters.

Under the legislation, a community will be able to move the election date through any one of three methods:

  • Resolution by the board of education,
  • Resolution by the municipal governing body, or
  • Public question presented to voters at the November General Election.

In school districts that change the election date to November, the organization meeting of the board will take place in the first week of January. Board members in such districts whose terms would have expired following the April election will have their terms extended to the January organization date.

The Association is awaiting further guidance from the state concerning the date by which a school board must take action to change the election date for 2012.

NJSBA supported the legislation because it places the decision on moving the election date at the community level. However, the Association did seek an amendment that would have removed the municipal governing body's authority to change the school election date unilaterally.

"The interests of taxpayers are well represented in the school budget development process," explained NJSBA Executive Director Marie S. Bilik, following the bill's introduction in December. "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.

"This bill would give school districts the ability to eliminate an exercise that is often frustrating and of little value: placing budgets that are already at or below cap on the ballot, where they can face misplaced voter dissatisfaction with municipal, state or even federal spending."

She continued, "Many school boards have expressed apprehension about mixing the non-partisan school board member elections with the partisan November General Election. That's a legitimate concern. This bill, however, would leave the decision to the local board of education, allowing it to weigh concerns about partisan elections with factors such as voter participation and whether there is a need for the district to continue holding referendums on proposed budgets already controlled by the tax levy cap."

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