Appoint a Returning Officer

Boards are strongly encouraged to appoint their returning officer early in the process to enable them to ensure delivery of service according to requirements. Resources for returning officers are available on this website, including the Returning Officers’ Handbook 2016-2019, forms, election timetable, templates, and memos.

The board of trustees is required to appoint a returning officer for each election (template letter of appointment). One person may be the returning officer for more than one election. No person may be both a candidate and a returning officer for the same election.

The returning officer position is an appointment by the board under regulation 5 of the Education (School Trustees Elections) Regulations 2000, which is quite different to the normal employee/employer role. It is a paid position and boards are advised to enter into a formal agreement with the returning officer regarding agreed services and support that will be available for the returning officer in their role before the role commences. In particular, it is advisable to agree on payment before the person begins work.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the returning officer role. It is important you appoint someone who has an eye for detail, ability to follow instructions, has good communication and can work effectively under time constraints. The board is required to have systems and infrastructure support in place for the returning officer and to make sure there is no undue influence by the principal or board members. You need to ensure that the returning officer’s capacity and capability to provide the service required is in line with the legislative and regulatory requirements.

Good independent practice suggests that the school principal is not the returning officer.

In preparation for supporting your appointed returning officer make sure that your school’s student management system has the facility to extract accurate details of parents/caregivers for each student, and can generate address labels for each person on the electoral roll.

Before triennial and staggered (mid-term) elections NZSTA will contact the relevant boards asking them to ensure that their returning officer registers themselves on this website. This is so that a database can be maintained to ensure effective and timely communication and support throughout the elections, particularly ahead of critical dates on the election timeline, as well as providing a way for the returning officer to update the number of nominations received.

Have you negotiated/settled the fee for the Returning Officer?

Experience clearly points to the fact that it is far better to do this before the election process gets under way rather than after it is completed.

NOTE: The following does not apply to parent representative by-elections, student representative elections or by-elections, or staff representative by-elections (however, see by-elections information below). In all other cases, the fee should be set and is payable regardless of whether the election goes to the voting stage or not. The fee does not cover any election expenses; it is simply the fee for doing the work. All other expenses must be paid out of, and coded against, the rest of the school’s allocated Election Funding.


Election Funding for the 2016 Triennial Elections

Base Rate                                                            $670.88

Per-student rate                                                 $   7.67

Per-student rate (Intermediate Schools only)  $  11.50

All figures are GST inclusive unless otherwise stated

The Election Funding is made up of two components: a base rate, which is the same for all schools, and a per-student rate for each full-time student. The funding formula is the same for all schools except stand-alone intermediate schools (in this case the per-student rate is more).

Check the Ministry of Education’s website: for details on election funding for the particular year the election is being held in.


For a school with a roll of 100: $7.67 x 100 = $767 plus $670.88. So, total election funding is $1438 (rounded to the nearest dollar).

For stand-alone Intermediate Schools with a roll of 100: $11.50 x 100 = $1150 plus $670.88. So, total election funding is $1821 (rounded to the nearest dollar).

Returning Officer Fee ExampleAs in past elections, NZSTA recommends the returning officer be paid 50% of the base rate and 25% of the per-student rate. Using the figures above, 50% will be $335.44, while 25% of the per-student rate is $1.91 x 100 = $191.75. Add those together for a total fee of $527 (rounded to the nearest dollar).

For stand-alone Intermediate Schools 25% of the per-pupil amount is $2.87. Multiply that by 100 for $287.50, and add that to half the base rate for a total returning officer fee of $623 (rounded to the nearest dollar).

Election Funding

The distribution of the Election Funding is based on a different formula, but using the same figures.

For triennial and staggered (mid-term) elections, your board will have received 70% of the total election funding before the process even starts.

Using the above figures, that is 70% of the $1438 of total election funding, which is $1007 (rounded to the nearest dollar).

For stand-alone Intermediate Schools, 70% of $1821 is $1275 (rounded to the nearest dollar).

The other 30% will arrive later, but only if the election went to a vote and did not stop when nominations closed. The 30% payment will be prompted after the returning officer has completed ‘Candidates and Elections Results – Appendix 1’ online on this website.


  1. All the costs of the election, including the returning officer fee, are paid out of Election Funding and, therefore, there is no impact on the board’s annual budget.
  2. The returning officer fee is well inside the initial 70% distribution. 

NZSTA recommends that the full fee is paid out regardless of whether the election goes to an actual vote. This is because the election process starts about five weeks before the close of voting and in the first three weeks of that time the returning officer will have completed around 85% of their work.


There is no Election Funding for parent representative by-elections. The board is reimbursed on an actual and reasonable basis. Therefore, a claim has to be made on the Ministry of Education’s website: using the correct form with copies of all receipts, including a receipt from the returning officer for their fee.

There is a maximum of $95 available to be claimed for a staff representative by-election using the same form.

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