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Decision No. 13,500

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

Decision No. 13,500

(October 23, 1995)

Raymond G. Kruse, Esq., attorney for respondent

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges respondent's rejection of a budget proposition submitted by a group of district residents. The appeal must be dismissed.

On March 27, 1995, respondent received a petition signed by 714 taxpayers. The petition sought to place a proposition before the voters at the Wappingers Central School District's annual meeting of May 17, 1995. The proposition stated:

Be it resolved that the voters of the district instruct the School Board to hold at least three district votes if the budget proposition is defeated before a contingency budget can be installed.

On April 17, 1995 respondent's attorney wrote to petitioner explaining that the proposition was not within the voters' authority. On April 25, 1995 respondent voted not to place the proposition on the ballot. This appeal followed.

Petitioner seeks an order directing respondent to place the proposition on the ballot at the May 17, 1995 meeting. He asserts that respondent rejected the proposition without giving taxpayers an opportunity for public discussion. Respondent contends that petitioner had an opportunity to comment at the public meeting prior to respondent's rejection of the proposition.

Petitioner's claim that respondent board was required to place his proposition before the electorate is without merit. Pursuant to Education Law '1716, it is the duty of a board of education to present the voters with an annual budget. A board need not present all propositions submitted to it (Appeal of Martin, 32 Ed Dept Rep 567). Rather, it may refuse to place a proposition before the voters when the proposition is not a matter within the voters' discretion (Education Law '2035).

In this case, petitioner's propositions sought to circumscribe respondent's authority to determine whether to place a budget before the voters a second or third time, or adopt a contingency budget. However, the law entrusts the board of education, not the voters, with this authority. Once a matter has been properly presented to the voters and voted upon, a board of education is not compelled to entertain a petition to resubmit the same or an essentially similar proposition to the electorate for re-vote (Appeal of Quarfot, 31 Ed Dept 141; Matter of Eaton, 11 id. 17; Matter of Morrill and DiBiase, 10 id. 247). Moreover, a board of education has the exclusive statutory authority to decide whether to adopt a contingency budget (Appeal of Benkovitz, 31 Ed Dept Rep 178).

Because respondent is under no legal obligation to submit a budget to the voters more than once prior to the adoption of a contingency budget, I find its rejection of the proposition to be rational.

Petitioner's claim that he had no opportunity to speak publicly about the proposition is without merit. The record reflects there was a period for public comment prior to respondent's vote on the proposition.

I have considered petitioner's remaining contentions and find them without merit.