Princeton’s annual school elections will move from April to November effective in 2013, the Board of Education voted on Tuesday.
The Board vote was 6-1. Molly Chrein voted no. Dorothy Bedford and Afsheen Shamsi were absent.
The school district is now committed to November elections for a minimum of four years.
A move to November voting means residents lose their opportunity to approve or deny the school budget, so long as the district stays within its 2 percent mandated tax cap.
Last year, only 70 of the nearly 600 school districts across New Jersey chose to stay with April elections, including Princeton.
Princeton Board members have since had a change of heart.
“While I continue to have concerns about denying members of the public the opportunity to have a direct vote on what comprises half their property tax bills, I have found the argument against spending between thirty and forty thousand dollars on an April election to be sufficiently compelling to consider changing my vote,” Board President Timothy Quinn said.
Special referendums on school construction- like the one approved by Princeton voters in September- cannot be part of November elections because state law prohibits it, Quinn said.
Chrein voted against November school elections out of concern they could become politicized.
Board Member Andrea Spalla said she changed her vote because November elections because it will likely increase voter turnout. But she echoed Chrein’s concern.
“Fundamentally school boards are not political bodies,” Spalla said. “Our job first and foremost is to make decisions on what’s in the best educational interests of our students.”
The school district will continue to host public budget forums board members stressed the district’s budget process will continue to be transparent.
“…I’ve seen several comments in online forums insinuating that this board opted to continue with an April vote in order to suppress turnout in favor of passage of a spending plan not in the public interest,” Quinn said. “Frankly, I find this notion absurd and not supported by the facts. In my time on the board, we have always balanced the public’s desire for excellent public education with a deep sense of stewardship of taxpayer funds.
“Voters who have taken the time to follow our budgeting process know it to transparent and reflective of community values. This will continue to be the case no matter when our elections are held.”