By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog
You probably missed it over the weekend due in part to the unseasonably wonderful weather and political excitement down in South Carolina, Save Jerseyans, but 80 New Jersey municipalities held 185 fire district elections between them to select fire commissioners and pass judgment on massive budgets.
The stakes? Yuuuuge. Multi-million dollar contracts and a significant chunk of your property tax bill. Just one of Hamilton’s nine fire districts (District 7) asked voters to approve a $4,088,577 budget. That’s a 10.9% increase over 2015.
Yet almost NONE of you voted. Turnout made last November’s historically-skipped legislative elections look like a gold rush. Don’t doubt that it’s partially by design. Fire districts don’t even have to mail out sample ballots by law; election results aren’t tabulated by municipal or county clerks like they are for a regular election. It’s a crazy system given the amount of money that’s on the line.
Some politicians have called for consolidation. Others want to move them to November.
My question: Is it worth considering doing away with this extra layer of bureaucracy altogether? Particularly since MILLIONS of dollars in each district – and the property tax bills of all New Jerseyans – are being decided by a mere… 40-ish voters?
Would putting the responsibility of funding these priorities back in council’s lap streamline these important issues for voters?
Let me know what you think…