Dear Fellow Voters,
Ridgewood residents are asked to vote in numerous elections each year. There is no question that consolidating those votes into the single traditional voting day in November will increase voter turnout, save Ridgewood taxpayers money, and avoid unnecessary security risks in our schools. That said, holding school elections in November means that a separate vote on the school budget would only occur if school taxes increase by more than 2% in a given year. Some community members are disturbed by this, feeling that it is tantamount to “stealing their right to vote.”
We believe otherwise — that the best way to safeguard all citizens’ right to vote is to ensure that the voices of as many members of our community as possible are heard in every election. Given the higher turnouts in November elections (as documented in our prior communication), it is clear that consolidated November elections will maximize participation in the electoral process.
Fact #3: Ridgewood is one of only fifteen municipalities in NJ that currently hold an automatic and separate vote on the school budget. All of NJ’s 545 other municipalities hold their school elections in November.
Across the country there are very few states in which some or all school budgets go before voters. Instead, the vast majority of voters around the United States come together in November (with higher turnout) to elect smart, like-minded representatives who reflect their values and ideals. These representatives can then roll up their sleeves and develop an expertise in the complex budgeting process — an expertise most voters have neither the time nor resources to develop. The New Jersey Legislature considered all this in 2012 when they voted overwhelmingly in both houses (34-3 in the Senate, 62-11 in the Assembly) to allow municipalities to move school elections from April to November, with no budget vote if the school tax increase is below 2%.
It is important to reiterate that if our Board of Education develops a budget that calls for a school tax increase greater than 2%, a public vote is required on that budget. And, no matter the size of the tax increase, school boards are legally required to hold public hearings on any proposed budget. Finally, school board members are held accountable for budget votes when they run for reelection. As an example, Ridgewood’s Board of Education recently heeded public opinion by voting to pass higher state aid through to taxpayers as tax relief.
We strongly note that by joining the vast majority of NJ and the country in consolidating elections, Ridgewood would not be taking away the right to vote; rather, we believe that consolidating our elections in November will increase our community’s ability to collectively be heard.
One Village, One Vote!
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be presenting data to the community about why it makes sense to move our elections to November. Be sure to sign up for emails at www.onevillageonevote.com in order to receive all of the latest information and learn how you can help support this change in our Village. We look forward to connecting with you.
Siobhan Crann Winograd
1 ^ 9/9/20 update: For clarity, there are a few exceptions to the 2% cap. However, the intention is still in place to ensure the public has an opportunity to vote if the BOE proposes substantial increases over time.