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Decision No. 15,925

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Appeal of the BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE RUSH-HENRIETTA CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT regarding an annual budget vote.

Decision No. 15,925

(May 26, 2009)

DesMarteau & Beale, attorneys for petitioner, George DesMarteau, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner, the Board of Education of the Rush-Henrietta Central School District, seeks an order pursuant to Education Law §2037 annulling the results of its May 19, 2009 budget vote.  The appeal must be sustained.

On May 19, 2009, petitioner presented five propositions for voter approval.  Proposition 1 was intended to set forth the district’s proposed 2009-2010 operating budget of over $100 million.  However, after the polls opened, the district clerk noticed that each voting machine incorrectly displayed petitioner’s 2008-2009 budget proposition, of approximately $99 million, rather than the 2009-2010 budget proposition.  The voters approved the incorrect proposition by a substantial margin, with approximately 73% voting in the affirmative.

On May 21, 2009, petitioner commenced this appeal in which it requests that I either (1) affirm the results of the favorable vote and deem the 2009-2010 budget proposition, as intended, to have been accepted or (2) invalidate the results of the May 19, 2009 budget vote and order a new election.

To invalidate the results of a school district election or vote, petitioner must establish not only that irregularities occurred, but also that any irregularities actually affected the outcome of the election (Matter of Boyes, et al. v. Allen, et al., 32 AD2d 990, affd 26 NY2d 709; Appeal of Bd. of Educ. of the Schroon Lake Central School Dist., 47 Ed Dept Rep 502, Decision No. 15,766), were so pervasive that they vitiated the electoral process (Appeal of Bd. of Educ. of the Schroon Lake Central School Dist., 47 Ed Dept Rep 502, Decision No. 15,766; Appeal of Bd. of Educ. of the Goshen Central School Dist., 47 id. 352, Decision No. 15,721), or demonstrate a clear and convincing picture of informality to the point of laxity in adherence to the Education Law (Appeal of Christe, 40 Ed Dept Rep 412, Decision No. 14,514; Appeal of Levine, 24 id. 172, Decision No. 11,356, affdsubnomCapobianco v. Ambach, et al., 112 AD2d 640).  

The record before me indicates that Proposition 1, as presented to the voters on May 19, 2009, was in fact the district’s 2008-2009 budget proposal.  While petitioner asserts that “in the course of voting, only 3 voters commented upon the discrepancy,” I am unable to conclude that the 2009-2010 budget proposition was approved by the district’s voters.  Therefore, I find that the error vitiated the electoral process and that a new vote is necessary to determine the will of the voters (Appeal of Bd. of Educ. of the Schroon Lake Central School Dist., 47 Ed Dept Rep 502, Decision No. 15,766; Appeal of Bd. of Educ. of the Goshen Central School Dist., 47 id. 352, Decision No. 15,721; Appeal of Bd. of Educ. of the Whitehall Central School Dist., 44 id. 246, Decision No. 15,161).

THE APPEAL IS SUSTAINED.

IT IS ORDERED that the results of the budget vote conducted by petitioner on May 19, 2009 are hereby annulled; and

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that petitioner is hereby authorized to call a special meeting of the district for the purpose of revoting on Proposition 1.

END OF FILE