According to legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie last week, school board elections normally held in April could be moved to coincide with the general elections in November. Either a school board or municipality can vote to make the switch, or voters can petition the municipality for a referendum on the prospect.
Toms River Regional School District did not use its regular meeting last week to vote on the matter, and instead will use the weeks ahead to investigate the measure's impact, said Superintendent Frank Roselli.
The legislation also states that if a school district is able to keep its proposed budget under the state-mandated 2 percent hard cap it would not have to put it up for a vote by the public.
Business Administrator Bill Doering also confirmed the district has begun discussing whether to move elections to November.
"The board began discussions and will have further discussions regarding the BOE election bill. I understand several districts have already approved moving the election to November, and several more will vote on it next week," Doering said.
The issue came up briefly during the executive session of the school board at its Tuesday meeting, but aside from committee meetings held in early February, the next school board public meeting will be Feb. 21.
However, Doering said the impact of a November election, which would bind the district to create a budget that grows less than 2 percent year over year, would aid in the school district's longterm planning.
"If the election is moved and there is no longer a vote on a budget under cap, that will help with longterm planning and financial stability," Doering said.
In the current format, all budgets go before the voters and risk being rejected. By allowing districts to move forward on budgets without voters, the budget would have to clear the school board members' votes only. Public hearings would still be held on the school budget.
Doering said the move to November would save approximately $100,000 in election costs, too.
However, it's premature to say what will happen in Toms River Regional. "As I said, the board will have further discussions regarding the BOE election bill before a decision is made," Doering said.
Roselli said the district is doing its "due diligence" now.
"It's a 30 page bill that was approved on Tuesday afternoon," Roselli said. "We need to give our counsel enough time to review it."
Moving an election to November is not something that should be done hastily, he said.
"That’s the kind of thing, everyone would agree, you have to do the due diligence," said the superintendent.
He did not say what his preference was, whether April or November, but mentioned there are definite advantages to a November election, simply for the cost savings of administering the election.
Right now the board has an overview of what the bill is about, and the administration is also reviewing it, he said. "The counselor is giving us the assistance to get the big picture," he said. "Let's not rush, but we will meet in the near future."
Election deadlines to file candidacy are in March for the April election. Roselli said Friday a timeline needs to be made, mindful of both the approaching deadlines but also to allow for a thorough investigation.
"Time is of the essence," Roselli said. "Several other districts have already made the decision to move."
Manchester, Barnegat and Central Regional school districts each decided last week to move elections to November.