The long tradition of holding fire district elections in New Jersey on a Saturday in February could be coming to an end.
The elections, which decide the budgets of individual fire stations and their personnel, should take place in November during the general election, state Sen. Shirley Turner said.
“There is poor — extremely poor— participation in those elections, 1 to 2 percent, which is a waste to taxpayers’ money to have to have those elections in February when so few people participate,” said Turner, D-Mercer.
Bill Potts, the vice president of the State Association of Fire Districts, said many fire districts are willing to voluntarily move their elections to November. But the association opposes making it mandatory for multiple districts in a municipality to merge before they can make that switch.
“If you mandate that the fire districts consolidate, where you have four or five districts and they consolidate into one, I believe in the long run you will see a loss of volunteers, you will end up with a paid force,” Potts said. “That’s what happened in Cherry Hill.”
Hunterdon County Clerk Mary Melfi said having fire district elections this November would make for a very crowded ballot.
“We currently have a general election with all the state and county and municipal officials. You’ve got school board now. Now, you’re going to put fire district,” Melfi said. “And then you have questions. The last I had heard, the state had four of them coming. I don’t know how many school questions.”