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Decision No. 13,207

Appeal of HAROLD A. BERNHARDT from action of the Board of Education of the Groton Central School District relating to a building renovation proposal.

Decision No. 13,207

(June 20, 1994)

Matthew R. Fletcher, Esq., attorney for respondent

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner, a resident of the Groton Central School District, seeks an order annulling the results of a district vote which approved the expenditure of funds to renovate and construct school facilities. The appeal must be dismissed.

On December 16, 1993, the voters of the Groton Central School District approved a proposition authorizing respondent to expend up to six million dollars for construction, renovation and equipping facilities of the district. Voters approved the proposition by a vote of 672 to 380. On January 11, 1994, petitioner commenced this appeal seeking an order staying further action on the construction and renovation of school facilities. Petitioner's request for a stay was denied.

Petitioner's sole claim is that respondent improperly influenced the outcome of the vote. Specifically, petitioner asserts that respondent deceived the voters by claiming that increased enrollment would cause overcrowding at the high school. Respondent denies that allegation and has submitted copies of informational documents used by respondent to explain why it sought funds for the proposed facilities project. Those documents indicate that projected increased enrollment in the high school was not the sole or even primary purpose of the project. Other factors included: (1) providing classroom space to educate children with disabilities in local school buildings, (2) compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, (3) correcting ground water problems, (4) removal and management of asbestos, (5) providing new or increased educational opportunities in technology, physical education, interscholastic athletics, band and color guard, (6) improvement of science laboratories and (7) expanding guidance counseling areas. Moreover, current enrollment figures in respondent's elementary and middle schools support respondent's increased enrollment projections for its high school.

As stated in Matter of Lewis, 13 Ed Dept Rep 137:

It has been consistently held that a board of education has not only the right but the duty to present facts and information to the electorate to enable them to vote intelligently.

Therefore, on the record before me, I find no basis to conclude that respondent improperly influenced the outcome of the election.