Brigid Bergin, Reporter
Brigid Bergin is the City Hall and politics reporter for WNYC.
New York, NY —
For the first time in 34 years, New Jersey voters have rejected a majority of school budgets. According to unofficial results, voters turned down 260 of 479 budgets in 19 counties in yesterday's elections, which were particularly contentious this year.
Under Gov. Chris Christie's proposed state budget, schools would get less money from the government. Most districts are planning layoffs and tax increases.
Christie says layoffs can be avoided and urged voters to reject budgets in schools where teachers have not agreed to have their salaries frozen and do not contribute to their health insurance premiums.
Officials of the state’s teachers union say the governor has set up a false choice. They are urging him to increase taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents instead.
Frank Belluscio, a spokesperson for the New Jersey School Boards Association, says the vote shows New Jerseyans are reacting to the current state of the economy.
“They looked at their own property taxes and I think they were more aware of these budget elections because of some of the issues at the state level,” Belluscio says. “So essentially what the voters did yesterday, they said we're not going to approve this budget. We want another group of elected officials, a second set of eyes, to take a look at it.”
In districts where voters tuned down the proposals, it will be up to local municipalities and districts to decide on the final budget. They have until May 19 to make their final decisions.