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Decision No. 12,927

Appeal of PATRICIA A. FRIEDMAN from action of the Board of Education of the Franklin Square Union Free School District regarding an annual district meeting.

Decision No. 12,927

(May 10, 1993)


Behrens, Loew & Cullen, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, William

M. Cullen, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals from the results of the Franklin Square Union Free School District's 1992 annual meeting. She alleges that certain irregularities occurred at the meeting and asks that I set aside the results of the annual budget vote. The appeal must be dismissed.

On June 10, 1992 respondent held its annual district meeting and election of board members. At the meeting, the following budget proposition was presented:

RESOLVED, that the proposed budget of expenditures of the Franklin Square Union Free School District for the school year 1992-93 in the amount and for the purposes shown in the statement of estimated expenditures adopted by the Board of Education, be and the same hereby is approved and the amount thereof shall be raised by a levy of a tax upon the taxable property of the school district, after first deducting the monies available from State Aid and other sources as provided by law.

The voters approved the proposition and this appeal ensued.

Petitioner contends that respondent's budget proposition was improper because it did not contain a specific dollar amount. She also alleges that no other representation or distribution of information relative to the dollar amount of the proposed budget was available to the voters. Finally, petitioner alleges that respondent engaged in illegal electioneering by distributing flyers urging voters to approve the proposed budget. Based on those alleged irregularities, petitioner argues that the budget vote should be annulled.

Respondent argues that, in presenting the proposition as written, it did not violate any provision of the Education Law. Respondent denies that it engaged in any illegal electioneering. Respondent also raises a procedural defense that I will address before reviewing the merits.

Respondent alleges that petitioner does not reside in the Franklin Square Union Free School District and contends, therefore, that she lacks standing to bring this appeal. Respondent is correct. In Appeal of Friedman, 32 Ed Dept Rep 447, I upheld a determination of respondent board of education, removing petitioner from the office of member of the board of education based on its determination that she did not reside in respondent's school district. In view of the fact that petitioner is neither a resident of respondent's school district nor aggrieved by respondent's actions concerning the annual budget, she lacks standing to maintain this appeal (Appeal of Martin, 32 Ed Dept Rep 381; Application of Martin, 32 id. 208; Appeal of LaCorte, 29 id. 170).

The appeal also must be dismissed on the merits. Contrary to petitioner's allegations, there is no statutory requirement that the annual budget proposition contain a specific monetary figure. Education Law '1716 sets forth the board of education's duties with respect to the presentation of its proposed annual budget which provides that:

It shall be the duty of the board of education of each district to present at the annual meeting a detailed statement in writing of the amount of money which will be required for the ensuing year for school purposes, specifying the several purposes and the amount for each ... Such statement shall be completed at least seven days before the annual ... meeting at which it is to be presented and copies thereof shall be prepared and made available, upon request, to taxpayers within the district during the period of seven days immediately preceding such meeting and at such meeting.

The record indicates that respondent's annual budget was prepared and made available to district residents at each of the district's three school buildings at least seven days prior to the June 10, 1992 annual meeting in a manner consistent with law. According to the record, copies were also available at the annual meeting.

Although respondent's actions comply with the technical requirements of Education Law '1716, the electoral process is better served when a board of education strives to meet not only the minimal legal requirements, but to provide the voters with as much information as possible to ensure an informed vote. I note in this case that, in addition to meeting the requirements of Education Law '1716, respondent also claims that it mailed a copy of the proposed budget to every household in the school district. Petitioner offers no evidence to the contrary. Therefore, I find that, in this instance, respondent not only met but exceeded the statutory requirements in presenting its proposed budget to the voters of the district.

Petitioner's allegations that respondent engaged in unlawful electioneering are not supported by the record. Petitioner submits copies of two flyers distributed to residents of the Franklin Square school district in which the voters are urged to vote "Yes" on the budget proposition. The record indicates that the flyers were not prepared or disseminated by respondent board of education. Instead, it was the district's parent-teacher association (PTA) and teachers' association that produced the fliers and, without respondent's knowledge, gave them to classroom teachers to distribute to the students. Because I find no evidence that respondent was ever aware or otherwise sanctioned the actions of the PTA and teachers' association, I will dismiss petitioner's claim against it. However, since respondent is ultimately responsible, the board must take affirmative actions to ensure that, in the future, it does not lend even indirect support to partisan activities by allowing other groups access to its formal channels of communications (see, Appeal of Allen, 32 Ed Dept Rep 69).

I have reviewed petitioner's remaining claims and find them without merit.