Princeton Public Schools officials are debating whether or not to change annual school elections from April to November.
Last year, only 70 of the nearly 600 school districts across New Jersey chose to stay with April elections, including Princeton. Superintendent Judy Wilson said even more districts will probably move to November elections next year.
There are pros and cons to both options, but school officials want to hear from voters before making a decision at the next Board of Education meeting on Dec. 18. Let the district know your opinion by posting on the Princeton Public Schools' Facebook page.
If the district decides to move to a November vote, the commitment would be for four years, Wilson said.
A November vote would likely increase voter turnout because that’s when other local, state and federal elections are held; April elections draw only about 9 to 11 percent of registered voters to the polls, Wilson said.
November elections would also probably cost less- from about $40,000 in April- to a pro rata share of all of the districts voting in November.
Board Member Dan Haughton said he prefers a move to November, and not just for the cost savings.
“My feeling is if you really want to encourage democracy, you’re going to get more voters, and more parents, turning out in November. “
But without an April school election, Princeton voters would lose their opportunity to approve or deny the school budget, so long as the district stays within its 2 percent mandated tax cap.
“Leaving aside the cost savings, I still believe the public has a right to vote on part of their tax bill,” Board President Tim Quinn said. “Since we are up to 50 percent of local property taxes, I think it’s an exercise in democracy and an opportunity for the public to give us a thumbs up or thumbs down.”
Some have also expressed concern that November school elections could become more susceptible to outside influence or partisan politics, even though board candidates are listed in a separate section of the ballot and candidates not aligned with any political party.
But even non-partisan ballot placement has some school board members concerned, because candidates are listed via a random drawing, prompting concern that voters simply vote for the first two or three candidates rather than researching the qualifications of each.