The Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District Board of Education passed a resolution changing the date of the school board election to coincide with the November general election.
The board voted 6-2 in favor of the resolution at their workshop meeting Monday night, with members Ken Aitken and Todd Larchuk voting against it.
New Jersey School Board Elections are normally held in April, however Senate Bill 3184, which was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie in January,
, as of early last week over 230 school districts in the state had opted to switch their election from April to November.
The change could have been made by a board approved resolution, a resolution passed by the municipal governments in the school district or by a voter referendum. According to the resolution, the change has to remain in effect for at least four years.
The move is expected to save the district money by eliminating the cost of an April election and to increase voter participation in school board elections.
"It's very disappointing that we can't increase [voter turnout.] And when I look here, especially back in 2011, we're facing the worst economic conditions in recent years and that's where the number (of voters) was the lowest," said Elizabeth Hayward, the vice president of the board.
Residents will also no longer be able to vote to on the board's budget unless there is a 2% or higher increase in the tax levy because of the timing of the general election.
The board held a public hearing on the resolution, however fewer than five residents attended the meeting Monday night and no one stood to voice an opinion. The board debated the resolution, and multiple members noted their disappointment in the small turn out.
"There are pros and cons on both sides and I decided to leave it up to citizen participation to see what the pulse of the people was. And the pulse of the people apparently has flat lined. No one is here to talk about it and no one seems to care much," said Gerard Donaghue, a board member.
Board President Charles Kenny, who was in favor of the resolution, said that changing the election would allow board members to plan a reasonable budget without worrying if it would be rejected for the wrong reasons.
"When a very, very fiscally responsible and conservative budget is not passed in an election by a small group of people who may be entrenched or have other interests, we may not be able to serve the very students we are charged to serve," Kenny said.
However, Larchuk did not agree that the taxpayers should loose the right to vote on the budget, nor did he feel that the cost savings was high enough to justify the change.
"It essentially removes a layer of taxpayer oversight and that's a layer I'd like to be there," Larchuk said.
Aitken agreed, arguing that moving the election to November is not a big deal, but preventing residents from voting on the budget takes away an important right from them.
"I understand that everybody has the right to vote; everybody has the right not to vote. But it's not up for me to say just because you don't vote I should take it away from you," Aitken said.
Aitken also pointed out that there is no guarantee that the 2% cap will not increase or disappear over time.
The resolution takes effect immediately, and residents will only vote on the 2012-2013 school board budget if it exceeds the 2% cap.