Appoint a Returning Officer

For each election or by-election use the Election planner tool to make sure the key timetable dates are followed

Note: Under the updated election regulations, returning officers must be appointed at least 63 days (9 weeks) before the election date for a parent election, and 31 days for a student or staff by-election.

Boards are strongly encouraged to appoint their returning officer for triennial and mid-term elections 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 2022, forms, election timetable, templates, and memos.

The school board 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 role of the returning officer is to conduct elections in accordance with legal procedures. 

The returning officer position is an appointment by the board under regulation 7 of the Education (Board Elections) Regulations 2022, 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. More information about funding is below.

If the returning officer is already a member of board staff, then unless their role is included in their job description, they must still be appointed by the board and agreement reached on their fee.

The Returning officer invoices the board directly for their fee and any disbursements, which the board then accounts for either:

  • from election funding, if the appointment is to run triennial or mid-term elections
  • by claiming reimbursement from the Ministry of Education (if the appointment is to run a by-election). For more information view.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the returning officer role. It is important the board appoints 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. The board needs 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 the board's appointed returning officer make sure that the 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 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.

Has the board negotiated/settled the Returning Officer's fee?

The board and the returning officer need to agree on the returning officer's fee before the election process gets under way. 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.

Note: The following does not apply to by-elections for parent, staff or student representatives by-elections, see by-elections information below. In all other cases, the fee should be set and be payable regardless of whether the election goes to the voting stage or not. 


Election funding formula

Ministry of Education funding is based on a formula which calculates:

  • a base grant, plus
  • a per-student amount multiplied by the current or latest funding roll 



FUNDING (GST incl) 2022

Base Rate



Per-Student Rate



Per-Student Rate*



 *Intermediate schools only


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, where the per-student rate is more.

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



For a school with a roll of 100: $8.82 x 100 = $882.00 plus $770.01. So, total election funding is $1652.00 (rounded to the nearest dollar).

For stand-alone intermediate schools with a roll of 100: $13.19 x 100 = $1319.00 plus $770.01. So, total election funding is $2089 (rounded to the nearest dollar).



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 $385, while 25% of the per-student rate is $2.20 x 100 = $220. Add those together for a total fee of $600 (rounded to the nearest dollar). 

For stand-alone intermediate schools 25% of the per-pupil amount is $3.21. Multiply that by 100 for $321.00, and add that to half the base rate for a total returning officer fee of $696.00 (rounded to the nearest dollar).


How the election funding is distributed

For triennial and staggered (mid-term) elections, each board receives 70% of the total election funding in the operational grant instalment before the process even starts.

Using the above figures, that is 70% of the $1607.00 of total election funding, which is $1125.00 (rounded to the nearest dollar).

For stand-alone Intermediate Schools, 70% of $2033.00 is $1423.00 (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.


  • 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.
  • 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. Use the correct form with copies of all receipts, including a receipt from the returning officer for their fee.

There is a maximum of $105 available to be claimed for a staff representative by-election using the same form.

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