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Decision No. 13,413

Application to reopen the Appeal of ROBERT HEBEL from action of the Board of Education of the New Paltz Central School District regarding approval of a budget.

Decision No. 13,413

(May 11, 1995)

Shaw & Silveira, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Garrett L. Silveira, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--This is an application to reopen Appeal of Hebel, 34 Ed Dept Rep 319, in which I found that respondent was not authorized to include in its contingency budget funds for field trips to a local land preserve. The application must be granted.

Pursuant to 8 NYCRR 276.8, applications to reopen are addressed solely to the discretion of the Commissioner. Such applications will not be granted in the absence of a showing that a decision was rendered under a misapprehension of fact or that there is new and material evidence which was not available at the time of the original decision.

In the original appeal, I determined that proposed trips to a local land preserve were merely field trips intended to enhance or enrich the students' course of study. Respondent correctly maintains that such determination was based on a misapprehension of the facts. The record indicates that the trips are actually an intricate component of respondent's elementary science curriculum. As such, the trips are the "laboratory" component of the science curriculum in which students engage in field studies and experiments.

As noted in the original decision, Education Law '2023 provides that, in the absence of voter approval of a budget, a board of education may levy taxes and expend money only for teacher salaries and ordinary contingent expenses. Ordinary contingent expenses are those which are either legal expenses; expenditures specifically authorized by statute; or items necessary to maintain the educational program, preserve property or assure the health and safety of students and staff of the school district (Matter of North Syracuse CSD, 21 Ed Dept Rep 221; Matter of Cleveland Hill UFSD, 16 id. 124; Formal Op. of Counsel No. 213, 7 id. 153).

Decisions regarding the instructional programs to be offered in the schools of a district are within the discretion of the board of education and are not subject to voter approval (Education Law '1709[3]; Matter of Raffone, 13 Ed Dept Rep 245; Matter of Feldheim, 8 id. 136). Accordingly, the decision to include a laboratory field study component in respondent's science curriculum is not subject to voter approval, and the costs associated with it are ordinary contingent expenses.

THE APPLICATION TO REOPEN IS GRANTED.

IT IS ORDERED that petitioner's original appeal is dismissed in all respects.

END OF FILE