N.J. voters head to polls for school elections

Voters in 538 districts across the state will head to the polls today to decide the fate of their proposed school budgets, according to a tally by the New Jersey School Boards Association.

In addition, 90 percent of the state’s districts will select school board members from a candidate pool that has grown for the first time since 2006. Association officials attribute that increase - 2,222 candidates compared to 2,055 in 2010 - to increased activism in the wake of last year’s deep aid, staff and program cuts.

What is substantially smaller than in the past are so-called second questions to raise money for positions or programs in excess of the tax levy cap. This year that cap is limited to 2 percent, compared to 4 percent last year.

Statewide, only 11 districts have second questions, compared to 70 or more several years ago. Locally, voters in Springfield Township, Burlington County, will decide whether to exceed the cap by $99,277 to pay for full-day kindergarten. In the Kingsway Regional district, the second question calls for $405,275 to reestablish freshman and middle-school sports and to retain some other athletics and after-school activities.

Eight districts around the state also have school construction referendums on their ballots totaling $50.8 million.

Locally, the Riverside district in Burlington County is proposing to raise $475,000 in taxes to replace bleachers at its athletic field. The old bleachers were taken down after a consultant deemed them to be a safety and liability risk. The field is used by school and community groups.