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Decision No. 13,318

Appeal of GARY R. HART from action of the Board of Education of the Massena Central School District regarding conduct of a vote on budget propositions.

Decision No. 13,318

(December 20, 1994)

Ingram & Ingram, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Verner M. Ingram, Jr., Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner, a resident of the Massena Central School District, seeks an order directing the Board of Education of the Massena Central School District ("respondent") to cease alleged improper electioneering. The appeal must be dismissed.

On August 17, 1994, respondent presented five budget propositions to the voters of the district. Petitioner asserts that respondent violated Education Law '2031-a by electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place. Specifically, petitioner contends that respondent placed budget fact sheets on a table near the voting booths.

In Matter of Phillips v. Maurer, 67 NY2d 672, the Court of Appeals held that a board of education may use public monies to provide voters with factual information to assist them in making informed decisions with regard to a proposed school budget or proposition. However, a board of education may not use school district funds to exhort the electorate to support a particular position or candidate. The record in this case indicates that the literature challenged by petitioner was simply a fact sheet about the budget and the five propositions presented to the voters. The fact sheet set forth the amount of the proposed budgets previously rejected by the voters. In addition, the sheet specified the amounts requested in the five propositions before the voters to cover several non-contingent budget items. There is no evidence in the record to support petitioner's assertion that the fact sheet was other than factual or that it urged voters to cast their ballot in a particular manner. Accordingly, there is no basis to support petitioner's contention that respondent was guilty of improper electioneering in violation of Education Law '2031-a.