In what was little more than a formality, the Black Horse Pike Regional School District board voted Thursday night to move the annual school election from April to November.
The board approved the move by a vote of 6-2 during its meeting at Highland Regional High School Thursday night. Board members Ben Zanghi and Louis Johnston offered the two "no" votes.
Gov. Chris Christie in mid-January signed into law a bill that allowed either school boards, municipal governing bodies or an affirmative referendum vote to move school elections from April to the general election in November.
With the boards for the regional district's three K-8 sending districts—Bellmawr, Gloucester Township and Runnemede—all having already voted to move their elections to the November general election, it was essentially a foregone conclusion the BHPRSD board would follow suit.
"The other three districts had already moved to have their elections in November. It would be quite expensive for us to hold the election on our own," BHPRSD Board President Joyce Ellis said.
Johnston, the board's Bellmawr representative, was well aware that the measure was going to be approved when he offered his vote of disent, but explained following the meeting that he has real qualms with the new law.
"It gives the board a little too much power and the voters not enough power," he said.
Johnston was speaking of New Jersey voters' inability to vote on school budgets in those districts that move to a November election. He noted that under the new law, school boards can ask voters by referendum to override spending plans that would put the district in excess of the currently permitted 2 percent budget increase cap.
"And if those questions were so important to the voters, the board would be literally forcing them to raise their own taxes," Johnston said.
Ellis and other proponents of the new law are hopeful the move of school elections to the general election will give the electorate a greater say in who makes decisions about how their tax dollars are spent.
"Hopefully, we'll get better voter turnout," she said. "Turnout has always been low in the spring."
The board's elections must be held in November through at least 2015 under the new state law. After the 2015 election, the board could move to transition back to an April election.