Less than 2 percent of registered voters
turn out for February fire district elections
Assemblyman Ron Dancer said Wednesday’s release of the State Comptrollers’ report on fire districts confirms the need for his legislation to establish procedures for shifting fire district elections to the same date as the general election.
“The comptroller confirmed what we already knew. It is inefficient to hold fire district elections in February,” said Dancer, R-Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth. “A separate election wastes taxpayer dollars, and historically, voter turnout for these elections is extremely light.”
Asm. Dancer introduced A-2947 in March to give fire districts the same option of moving elections to the general election date in November just as the legislature did for the schools.
“The Legislature gave school boards the option of moving their elections from April to November with no vote required on budgets that were within the State’s two percent (2%) cap law. Our volunteer and professional firemen serving under Fire Districts deserve no less than the same options as schools. In just the last few years, almost every school district in the state has made the change to November,” said Dancer. “Last month, only 26 districts of the nearly 600 school districts in New Jersey held April elections.
“After reviewing the success of what the Legislature has done with the school districts, it just makes sense to extend the same opportunity to the fire districts,” Dancer continued.
Under Dancer’s bill, A-2947, the option of moving the date of the fire district election to November would need the adoption of a resolution by the board of fire commissioners of the fire district.
“We don’t want to force this on anybody. We want to make it permissive, just like we did for the school districts,” said Dancer, noting that the school election model has been proven successful.
The comptroller’s report noted that less than 2 percent of registered voters participated in fire district elections in 2012, and in one district, the turnout was barely more than ½ percent. General elections in the same districts turned out an average of 27 percent of the voters.
“Nearly half the fire districts in the state have budgets in excess of $1 million and, keep in mind, Fire District Commissioners and firemen are also taxpayers who want their life and property saving services to be cost efficient, while not compromising the safety of the public and themselves by having the necessary and adequate fire protection equipment,” said Dancer.