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Decision No. 13,139

Appeal of HERMAN OSTEN from action of the Board of Education of the Wappingers Central School District regarding a voter proposition.

Decision No. 13,139

(March 24, 1994)

Raymond G. Kruse, Esq., attorney for respondent

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Respondent seeks an order directing the Board of Education of the Wappingers Central School District ("respondent") to submit a proposition to district voters. Petitioner had also requested that I enjoin respondent from conducting an annual meeting scheduled on June 2, 1993. The stay request was denied, and the appeal must now be dismissed.

Due to declining enrollment, respondent closed its Kirby Road School at the end of the 1990-91 school year. Subsequently, respondent established a committee to explore alternatives for the use or sale of that property. Respondent currently rents space for administrative offices and audio-visual facilities. One of the options considered was renovation of the Kirby Road building for administrative and audio-visual use to eliminate the need for rental space.

On March 26, 1993, petitioner filed a petition with respondent, requesting that a proposition be placed before the voters at the annual meeting. The proposition stated:

Be it resolved that we the voters of the district authorize the school board to allocate a sum not to exceed $250,000 to make the Kirby Road School building usable by the district, to make room to accommodate all school operations within school owned properties.

Respondent rejected the petition on the ground that the dollar amount provided in the proposition was inadequate.

In an appeal before the Commissioner of Education, the petitioner has the burden of establishing the facts upon which he or she seeks relief (8 NYCRR 275.10; Appeal of Singh, 30 Ed Dept Rep 284; Appeal of Pickreign, 28 id. 163; Matter of Keiling, 25 id. 122). Petitioner has not met his burden of proof in this case. Petitioner contends that respondent's rejection of the petition was unjustified and that the sum of $250,000 is sufficient to renovate the Kirby Road School to administrative offices and audio-visual facilities. Other than his unsupported assertions, however, petitioner offers no proof that the necessary renovations of the Kirby Road School can be completed at a cost of $250,000 or less. In contrast, respondent has submitted an estimate of the costs to renovate the Kirby Road School. The estimate, prepared by a licensed architect on September 22, 1992, put the cost at approximately $1,200,000. Therefore, respondent's rejection of the proposition because it contained inadequate funding, appears to have a rational basis and will not be disturbed (Appeal of Martin, 29 Ed Dept Rep 148, 151). If respondent had agreed to let the proposition be placed before the voters and the voters adopted it, there would not have been adequate funding to complete the project.