Towns would be allowed to move school elections from April to November under a bill approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The sponsors of the measure say it will increase voter turnout and could save property taxpayers millions.

Assemblyman Lou Greenwald is one of the sponsors. Asked how much could be saved, he responds, "Statewide this has the potential if enacted on a very broad scale somewhere between $10 and $12 million."

State Senator Donald Norcross who sponsors the bill in the Upper House explains how that savings estimate was reached, "We passed a bill this year that moved the presidential primary back to the general election and statewide it was approximately $12 million that they're looking to save…….This bill will save local towns and local taxpayers millions of dollars, by permitting them to eliminate the costs associated with unnecessarily duplicative elections. At the same time, more citizens will have a voice in the process, which is a win-win for our communities."

The primary date move was required statewide, but the school election bill does not force towns to make the move therefore it's impossible to accurately calculate now how much would be saved for taxpayers.

Residents in municipalities that do make the move would not have to vote on school budgets unless they exceed the new 2% cap on increases. Those in towns that don't move the election would have to vote on budgets and would not see any savings.

The bill provides several methods by which a school district's annual school election can be moved to the date of November's general election. Specifically, a district's school election could be moved to November: upon the adoption of a resolution by the governing body of the municipality; upon the adoption of a resolution by the municipality's board of education; or if a petition signed by 15 percent of the legally qualified voters who voted in the immediately preceding presidential election is filed with the municipality's board of education.

"This is a bill that I think is long overdue in coming (and) a bill that will go quite a bit toward saving money," says Norcross. "Our legislation represents a big step on the road to true property tax reform. This bill provides the towns and the voters the tools they need, giving our communities a better say on their schools and their property taxes."

Towns that successfully move their school elections to November will not be permitted to move their election back to the third Tuesday in April until at least four school elections have been held in November. For limited purpose regional school districts, each of the constituent local school districts must approve moving the election to November.

"Politicians and pundits have talked about doing this for years, but special interests and inertia have prevented progress on this important issue-until today," says Greenwald. "Empowering towns to move their school elections to November will give voters better control of their local finances while saving property taxpayers the costs of holding yet another local election."

Video by Dino Flammia