Voter Guide: School, Township Referendums Up For Vote Wednesday
Guiding readers through a vote which could change Brick Township
Brick voters have a lot to consider before entering the voting booth Wednesday.
As residents of all of New Jersey's 566 municipalities go to the polls to choose their school board members and decide whether to give the OK to their school tax levy proposals, Brick is one of 14 municipalities whose residents will also get to decide whether to allow their municipal governing body to exceed a 2 percent cap on tax levy expenditures.
Though the questions appear on the same ballot, the referendums on the school tax levy and municipal cap exception are for two, distinct spending plans. The Board of Education has adopted a school tax levy to be presented to voters and the township council has decided to place a municipal referendum on the ballot. The budgets – as well as the bodies which presented them to voters – are completely separate, though both make up a portion of the total property tax bill residents pay each year.
In all, voters will have the opportunity to approve:
- A $136 million school budget supported by a $96.5 million tax levy. If approved, this would amount to a tax hike of approximately $58.55 for a property owner whose home is valued at $330,000, the township's average. A simple majority is needed to pass the referendum.
- $8.6 million in spending above the state-mandated 2 percent cap on municipal tax levy expenditures. The $8,655,056 would translate to a tax hike of $441 for the average homeowner in Brick, when combined with expenditures that are within the cap and exempt from it. The $8.6 million figure represents a budget that exceeds the cap by 12.69 percent, and a total increase in the municipal budget by approximately 24.5 percent. A simple majority is needed to pass the referendum.
If The Referendums Fail
If voters defeat the school tax levy proposal by voting "no" on the ballot question, the levy will go to the township council for a review. The council can choose to leave the levy as proposed or decrease it by an amount they choose. The township council, if it orders cuts, is obligated to suggest areas from where the cuts can be applied, however the Board of Education has the final say in how to apply the cuts. Legally, the township council only has the binding power to certify a revised tax levy. A board of education can appeal a municipal governing body's decision to cut a budget to the state Department of Education, though instances of this happening are extremely rare.
If voters defeat the municipal question to exceed the state's mandated 2 percent cap on tax levy expenditures, Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis and members of the township council have said up to 172 employees will have to be laid off since the budget must then be revised by May 17 to stay within the 2 percent figure.
The layoffs, according to a plan filed with the state Civil Service Commission, include 29 police officers and enough public works employees to force the township to stop providing trash and recycling pickup. Additionally, the recycling center on Ridge Road would most likely be shut down to residents. Park maintenance operations will be eliminated and clerical personnel within a number of departments will be laid off. Additionally, a number of inspectors, officers and clerks within the Land Use and Community Development department will get the ax.
The layoffs on the municipal side will most likely begin May 13, according to notices sent out to township employees. Garbage and recycling collection will cease within a few weeks to one month of the vote, Acropolis has said.
Because of its large size, Brick Township has many voting districts and, thus, many polling places. Residents from multiple districts usually vote in the same location, however. The state provides a polling place search online, but the easiest way to find your polling place is to consult the sample ballot mailed by the Ocean County Clerk's office last week.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. because Brick is including both a school and municipal referendum question. Some media outlets may report different times since municipalities that only have a school question can set different hours.