New Jersey municipalities that are considering holding a public referendum to exceed either the two percent levy cap or the zero percent appropriation cap should be mindful of approaching deadlines. In a recent notice, the Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) provided guidance for scheduling elections and managing the New Jersey referendum process.
Below are several key deadlines set forth in the DLGS guidance:
- Municipalities with Type II boards of education will hold their referendum on April 19, 2016, regardless of when their school board elections are held.
- Municipalities that hold non-partisan elections in May and have an election for local officers this year and want to hold a levy cap referendum, will use that election date, May 10, 2016, and not the April school date, regardless of when their school election takes place. A non-partisan municipality without an election in a given year will hold a levy cap referendum on the regular April school election date.
- The first deadline municipalities considering a levy cap referendum must meet is to publish a display advertisement announcing that a referendum may be held. The deadlines are February 23, 2016, for April levy elections and March 15, 2016 for May levy elections.
- Referendums for State fiscal year municipalities will be at the November General Election.
The DLGS also outlines a number of key referendum procedures and their respective deadlines. For instance, in compliance with N.J.S.A. 19:63-61, municipalities must publish a “Notice of Availability of Mail-In Ballots,” as a display ad in the official newspaper, at least 55 days before the election. For the April 19 election, the deadline is Tuesday, February 23, 2016. For the May 10 non-partisan election, publication must be made by March 15, 2016.
Due to the constraints, if municipalities are considering but have not yet reached a final decision, they should publish this Notice to preserve the opportunity to hold a levy cap referendum. In order to avoid confusion, if a municipality has published the Notice of Availability of Mail-In Ballot and later elects not to go through with the referendum, the governing body must memorialize that decision by passing a resolution to that effect and publishing a legal notice that a levy cap referendum will not be held as previously announced.
To ensure that municipalities follow all the proper procedures, it is imperative to thoroughly review the Local Finance Notice and address any concerns with your municipal counsel.
For more information about the levy cap referendum process or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.