Spending on 2012 school elections fell to the lowest point since 2001 due to a change in state law that led to far fewer school districts holding public votes on their budgets, according to an analysis prepared by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
School board candidates and others spent just under $600,000 in elections that, for the first time, were held in both April and November. Previous elections were held only in April.
Legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Jan. 17, 2012, and co-sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-6) and Sen. Donald Norcross (both D-5), let school districts move their elections to November. The law gave school districts a special incentive to hold November elections by ending a long-standing requirement that they post their budgets for a public vote provided their budgets fall within the state’s 2 percent annual cap. More than 86 percent of all districts switched their elections to November, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association.
“This is a case where a change in state law had an immediate and direct impact on campaign spending,’’ said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director. “Rarely is the impact so obvious – or dramatic.”
With far fewer budget votes on the public ballot, there was a steep drop in spending by the New Jersey Education Association, which historically has been the largest spender in school elections and heavy promoter of school budgets.
The NJEA School Elections Committee spent just $24,605 in 2012, all during the April elections.
Since 2000, the union has spent a high of $767,712 on 2011 school elections, and a low of $155,160 in 2000.