On August 7, 2017, Governor Chris Christie signed in to law P.L.2017, c.206 ("Act"), which permits fire districts in the State of New Jersey ("State") to move the date of their annual fire district election to the date of the November general election. Presently, N.J.S.A. 40A:14-72 requires that an election shall be held annually on the third Saturday in February in each established fire district in the State. Pursuant to the Act, the Board of Fire Commissioners of each fire district may now adopt a resolution moving the annual fire district election to the date of the general election in November.
If such change is made, the fire district elections held during the general election would be governed by the procedures established in Title 19 of the Revised Statues (N.J.S.A. 19:14-1 et seq.("Election Law")), except as otherwise required pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:14-70 et seq. ("Fire District Law"). Additionally, upon a fire district's decision to move the annual election to the date of the general election in November, all individuals seeking a position on a board of fire commissioners must be nominated through the direct nomination by petition process described in the Election Law.
Furthermore, if a fire district moves its annual election to the general election, voters would only be required to approve moneys to be raised by the fire district for the ensuing year in excess of the statutory two percent (2%) property tax levy cap. By contrast, annual elections held in February will still require voters to approve the entire amount of money to be raised by fire districts for the ensuing year regardless of whether such amount exceeds the property tax levy cap.
Finally, the Act permits fire districts to approve certain capital purchases without seeking approval of the voters in the Fire District, provided such purchases are funded by increased property tax levies permitted under the two percent (2%) property tax levy cap law. Such purchases must be authorized by a resolution adopted by the board of commissioners with a 2/3 majority vote at a public meeting that was properly advertised in accordance with the Act. However, fire districts will still be required to obtain voter approval for any purchases that require financing including, but not limited to, the issuance of bonds and lease purchase agreements.
Please note that the above-described changes authorized by the Act are a summary of the changes to Election law and Fire District Law as each impacts fire district elections and certain capital purchases and are not inclusive of every change specifically provided for respectively therein. Accordingly, we recommend that you contact our firm to review the full scope of changes presented in the Act.
The attorneys at Parker McCay P.A. can be reached at any time to discuss the changes set forth in the Act in more detail and answer any questions you may have in connection with its application and impact.
Craig A. Gargano
Philip A. Norcross
P: (856) 985-4021
Frank P. Cavallo, Jr.
P: (856) 985-4074