Livingston Board of Education Votes to End Public Vote on School Budget

Livingston Board of Education member Bonnie Granatir listens to a comment from the audience at the Jan. 31 special Board of Education meeting. Credits: Pat Kelley

LIVINGSTON, NJ – Following a trend being seen around the state, the Livingston Board of Education on Jan. 31 voted unanimously to eliminate a public vote on this year’s school budget if it falls below the 2 percent state-mandated cap. If the budget goes over the cap, the percentage that exceeds the cap will appear on the November ballot in the General Election. The election of school board members will also be moved to November.

According to the district’s Business Administrator Steve Robinson, Livingston is the 135th school district in the state to move school elections to November and that number is growing fast.

Districts are being allowed to make this change based on Senate Bill 3148 which allows them to adopt a resolution to eliminate a vote on their annual school budget if it falls within the statutory cap imposed by the state. If a district votes to make the change, the election of school board members would be moved from April to November and those members whose terms would have expired by May 1, 2012 will continue to serve until Jan. 2013.

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The decision to make this change will remain in effect for a minimum of four years.

Board of Education members assured those residents in the audience at Jan. 31 Special meeting that nothing would change in terms of transparency and public input. According to board member Barry Funt, the budget process, other than the vote, will remain the same. “The process that we go through would be unchanged,” he said.

The board will still hold a Town Hall meeting on the budget and will continue to solicit public input as they have done in the past, added board member Ron Spring.

Board member Chuck Granata said that he has seen “great care exercised” by both the superintendent and the business administrator as they have brought budgets forward over the years that he has sat on the board.

“We are at a point where we’re operating far more efficiently than before” and despite “drastic” budget cuts over the past two years, very little has been cut on curriculum, Granata said.

Board member Bonnie Granatir added that there will be “ample time” for both the public and board members to consider the budget before it is finalized. “I see this as a whole community effort,” she said.

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