On April 20th, for the first time since 1976, the majority of school budgets in New Jersey were rejected. In large part the results reflected voter anger over budgets that were presented with deep cuts, layoffs and property tax hikes to pay for teacher salary increases and free health care benefits. The teachers unions were asked by many school districts (and the Governor) to take a one-year salary freeze to help balance school budgets. Only 145 out of 600 districts agreed to a wage freeze for either teachers, administrators and/or superintendents. Only 20 teachers’ unions agreed to a wage freeze.
The next step for the Governor is to propose a stricter property tax cap and changes to public benefits and collective bargaining rules.
The most important part of this week’s vote is that it shows the important link between property taxes and local control.
As Alan Steinberg notes in an op-ed:
“Under the New Christie Paradigm, the Governor emphasized that the school budget vote was the electorate’s most important means of controlling school district spending and taxation. He urged the voters in yesterday’s elections to defeat budgets they deemed to be excessive, particularly those in which the local teachers’ union did not agree to a one year pay freeze.
It was evident even before the polls closed yesterday that the New Christie Paradigm had succeeded. The New Jersey electorate had been largely apathetic to school budget elections in the past, as evidenced by continuing abysmal turnout. Governor Christie had communicated to the electorate the effectiveness of the school budget vote as a tool to limit property tax increases. The citizenry of New Jersey responded to the Governor’s message by going to the polls in record numbers.”