CHATHAM, NJ - While many people will be scrambling to pay their taxes today, residents of Chatham also will be voting on the school board budget. Unlike the majority of the state, which moved the elections to November, Chatham chose to keep them in April.
Governor Chris Christie’s new law, which allowed districts to move their elections from April to November, will be quite evident tomorrow, when a mere 73 municipalities in the state will hold their elections. Towns are only required to put their budgets up for vote if they exceed a mandatory property tax cap.
“We chose to retain the option of the public vote on the school budget,” Board President Tom Belding said. “After a hearing it was clear that the majority of the public who appeared at the meeting were in favor of keeping the voter’s being able to give their opinions on the budget.”
Last year close to 80 percent of school budgets throughout the state were approved and Chatham hopes to help continue that trend tomorrow. The primary reason most districts moved their elections was to save money, but towns like Chatham have confidence their voters will make the right decision, Belding said.
“We’ve done our best to represent a responsible and cost effective budget,” Belding said. “It will be very unusual for the budget in Chatham to not pass.”
Belding emphasized that after several years of Chatham passing the budget, he has no reason to believe things will change this year.
“We very much appreciate the active dialogue that we have with the public during the budget election process,” he said.
In anticipation of enrollment growth, the board increased the budget, causing them to put a great deal of effort into allocation for personnel in the 2012-2013 school year. Also, facilities and programming areas were deemed satisfactory for the next school year.
“We feel confident that our budget will accommodate that,” Belding said.
With well below average costs for schools and property values retaining well, this is all credit due to the great education Chatham provides, he said.
Belding acknowledged not everyone will vote yes, but the board did devise a budget that should appeal to many residents.
“We do hope for a positive result and it would be very unusual if it were not a positive result,” he said. “We think this is a great program and it’s a great value for the homeowners in the town of Chatham.”