Citing cost savings and the potential for increased turnout at the polls as motivation, the West Deptford school board voted 8-1 Monday to join nearly 300 districts across the state to take advantage of a new state law and move the annual school election from April to November.
After a lengthy debate last month, school board members got further information from superintendent Kevin Kitchenman on the pros and cons of a move, including what other districts were doing, as well as the potential costs for keeping the election in April.
While last year’s election cost West Deptford schools $11,277 to run, this year could’ve been potentially close to double that, had the election stayed in April, school board President Christopher Strano said.
Keeping an April election, when only 1,560 voters showed up last year, at a greater expense didn’t make sense, Strano said, compared to moving the election to November, where last year, 5,900 people cast a ballot.
“We’re trying to do what’s best for the kids in the district,” he said.
The move also means the public will no longer get a vote on the school budget as long as the election stays in November, which will be the case at least through 2015, though Strano vowed to do as much as possible to keep the public informed on the annual budget process.
“People want to know where we’re investing, where it’s going,” he said. “There is going to be a policy put in place to keep the transparency.”
That includes continuing to hold a public budget hearing every year—as required by state law—as well as having a public budget work session, and presentations of the budget to various community groups outside the normal school board meeting schedule.
The move to November means the three school board members who are up for election this year—Jim Mehaffey, Peter Guzzetti and Don Hicks—will now serve through the end of the calendar year.
Interested school board candidates now have until the June primary election to file their nominating petition, instead of the Feb. 27 deadline for an April election.
The school election will remain nonpartisan, despite the move to the November general election, and school board candidates will be listed separately from candidates for other, partisan races.