An updated inside look at the finances of the campaign for an elected board of education in Montclair

Back in May, when the Montclair Township clerk certified our petition to have our local school board reclassified from an appointed Type I to an elected Type II, we published a detailed look at the finance of the effort. The idea was to not only be transparent about our finances, but also to demonstrate that a grassroots citizens’ group can make a difference without spending much in terms of money.

Now that the referendum has been won, and by a thumping 70%-30% margin, we’re going to do this same, picking up from where we ended in May. At that time, we had spent just $817.28, mostly on the technology required for online petitioning, which we then used for our ongoing effort to move Montclair’s quadrennial municipal elections from April to November, to increase voter turnout. With the BOE campaign assigned half of these costs, as well as half the $206.60 we spent on the Vote Montclair MailChimp account since we got enough subscribers to be forced into the paid user tier, we are at $615.16. During this period Vote Montclair also incurred $575.00 in legal costs, all related to the municipal date change petition fracas, and the creation of a formal entity (a “continuing political committee”) so that we could spend more money in the referendum while sticking to the letter of campaign finance law. 

Between the petition’s certification in May and election day we raised an additional $2,792.28. This involved 34 separate donations, again from local private individuals, with the biggest donation again being $1,000 (this time just one, from a new supporter), and a smaller average donation size ($82.13), and to the best of our knowledge all coming from local private individuals.

In the final month before election day we significantly ramped up our spending, mostly on printed materials and advertising, more than half of which went to support local media, and which is broken down as follows.

Montclair Local$870.00

So in total, our campaign to create an independent school district with an elected Board of Education had direct cash expenditures from Vote Montclair of $6,356.61. Of course this figure does not include the hundreds of hours of labor put in by the many volunteers in the effort, as well as the generous support of Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis, who in addition to his advocacy separately paid for a text blast, a sponsored email, and two “robocalls” reminding people to vote “yes.” (In the interests of further transparency Councilor Yacobellis told us after the election that these efforts cost roughly $1,500; if you want to thank him for this invaluable help please do so here). So let’s round it up to $7,850 in cash outlays for a complete petition and referendum campaign resulting in 9,290 “yes” votes, which in New Jersey political terms seems like a serious bargain.

We will continue to be as transparent as possible with the finances of this organization, and encourage others in the Township to do as well. And in the meantime we thank our supporters for their generosity, in money and, more importantly, in the time and passion they have given.

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