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Decision No. 13,028

Appeal of COMMUNITY LEAGUE OF GARDEN CITY SOUTH, INC., PETER MAURO and RICHARD ANDUJAR from action of the Board of Education of the Franklin Square Union Free School District regarding an annual district meeting.

Decision No. 13,028

(October 21, 1993)

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

of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the actions of the Board of Education of the Franklin Square Union Free School District in relation to its 1993 annual meeting. Petitioners allege that certain irregularities occurred prior to the meeting and ask that I set aside the results of the annual budget vote. The appeal must be dismissed.

On May 5, 1993 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 1993-94 in the amount of Thirteen Million, Eight Hundred Eighty-Two Thousand, Forty-Eight Dollars ($13,882,048.00) 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.

Prior to the annual meeting, respondent disseminated information concerning the proposed budget. Initially, respondent mailed a copy of the proposed budget to every household in the district. Later, revised figures were also made public. Petitioners filed this appeal and requested a stay of the budget vote, which was denied. The budget was subsequently approved by the voters.

Petitioners allege that respondent's budget proposition was improper because it did not contain a specific dollar amount. Petitioners also allege that respondent has disseminated false budget information in violation of Education Law '1716. Petitioners further contend that since respondent's budget did not contain an appropriation for salary increases for employees in collective bargaining units that have not entered into an agreement with the district by the time of the budget vote, respondent may not levy a tax increase after the budget vote to cover such expenses once a collective bargaining agreement has been negotiated. Petitioners request that I order respondent to correct its budget figures and mail the revised figures to every district resident. Petitioners also ask that I vacate the results of the budget vote and order a revote at board members' expense. Respondent contends that its budget proposition was proper in all respects.

Petitioners seek to bring this appeal as a class appeal on behalf of "each of the 87 UFSD in the State of New York." Pursuant to 8 NYCRR '275.2(a), however, a class appeal is permitted only where the class of individuals "is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable and where all questions of fact and law are common to all members of the class." Petitioners have not established that the issues of fact and law in this appeal are the same for all members of the proposed class of union free school districts in New York State (Appeal of Williams, 32 Ed Dept Rep 621). Class status is, therefore, denied.

In connection with petitioners' contention that the budget proposition did not contain a specific dollar figure, there is no statutory requirement that the annual budget proposition contain a specific monetary amount (Appeal of Friedman, 32 Ed Dept Rep 601). In any event, contrary to petitioners' allegation, a specific budget figure was included in respondent's budget proposition.

Petitioners allege that respondent provided false budget estimate information to the public. The record shows that original budget information, disseminated to the public, contained a minor error in the calculation of the percentage of budget increase. That error was revised in a subsequent publication that was also distributed prior to the vote. Petitioners, moreover, have failed to submit any evidence that voters were substantially misled by the error or that the results of the budget vote were affected by that error. In the absence of a showing that the outcome of the budget vote would have been different but for the alleged irregularities, I will not set aside district meeting and election results (Appeal of Versace, 30 Ed Dept Rep 455; Appeal of Brower, 29 id. 145; Appeal of Young, 26 id. 272).

Petitioners' contention that respondent may not levy a tax increase subsequent to the budget vote to cover the cost of salary increases incurred from collective bargaining agreements entered into after the date of the budget vote is without merit. When a budget is presented and voted upon prior to settlement of collective bargaining negotiations, a board of education may estimate the amount that will be necessary to meet the salary and other negotiated obligations for the forthcoming year. If the budgeted amounts are insufficient, a board of education may appropriate additional moneys necessary to meet those obligations (Education Law '2023; Matter of Welch, 16 Ed Dept Rep 397; Matter of Fagan, 15 id. 296).

I have considered petitioners' other contentions and find them without merit.