By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
A bill allowing South Orange-Maplewood to hold November school board elections starting next year must be amended to satisfy concerns of Gov. Chris Christie.
The governor conditionally vetoed the measure earlier this month and recommended technical changes, according to state Sen. Richard J. Codey, D-27th District. Codey, a sponsor of the measure, said the governor wants the Essex County clerk to be responsible for drawing the ballot placement, as in all other elections.
Assemblyman John F. McKeon, who represents the 27th District, said Monday he expected lawmakers to go along with the governor’s requests.
“That shouldn’t be an issue at all,” McKeon said in a phone interview.
If so, the soonest that school elections could be moved is in 2013. The decision could either be made by the Board of Education or through a combined act by the Maplewood Township Committee and the South Orange Board of Trustees.
School board President Beth Daugherty, a supporter of moving elections, could not be reached for comment Monday. When the issue was debated locally earlier this year, the school board opposed the idea.
In January, Christie signed legislation allowing school boards or local governing bodies to move school board elections to November.
Christie has said his motivation is two-fold: to save districts money and to increase voter participation in what have historically been contests with low turnout.
Hundreds of districts have made the change, according to Christie’s office. South Orange-Maplewood fell through the cracks of the legislation because of its status as the only “Type II district,” one with an elected school board as well as a separate Board of School Estimate that sets the tax levy on the school budget. Towns with a Board of School Estimate do not usually have an elected school board.
The bill Christie signed in January didn’t specifically address South Orange-Maplewood’s unique circumstance. However, the special bill Christie recently vetoed had moved through the Legislature, passing in both houses in February.
The new bill also says a BoSE will not vote on the school budget unless the spending plan exceeds the state-mandated 2-percent tax cap. A similar provision applies to towns in which the public votes on the school budget.
Philip Sean Curran can be reached at 908-686-7700, ext. 116, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.