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Decision No. 14,326

Appeal of DOUGLASS A. BITTEKER from action of the Board of Education of the Wappingers Central School District regarding a bond proposition.

Decision No. 14,326

(March 16, 2000)

Shaw & Perelson, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Michael K. Lambert, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the approval of a bond proposition by the Board of Education of the Wappingers Central School District ("respondent"). The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner is a resident of the Wappingers Central School District. On October 26, 1998 respondent unanimously approved a bond proposition for submission to the voters of the district on December 15, 1998. The bond proposition stated:

Shall the Board of Education of the Wappingers Central School District be authorized to reconstruct various School District buildings, including original furnishings, equipment, machinery, apparatus, appurtenances, and incidental improvements and expenses in connection therewith at a maximum estimated cost of $3,819,000, and that the sum of $3,819,000, or so much thereof as may be necessary, shall be raised by the levy of a tax upon the taxable property of said School District and collected in annual installments as provided by Section 416 of the Education Law; and, in anticipation of such tax, obligations of said School District shall be issued.

Petitioner initiated this appeal by service of a verified petition on December 9, 1998. Petitioner challenges the language of the proposition, asserting that it is vague. Petitioner also claims in a conclusory manner, that the language of the bond proposition violates the requirements of Education Law "416. As the sole relief set forth in his appeal, petitioner sought an interim order staying the December 15, 1998 meeting of the voters and requiring respondent to redraft the proposition to allow voters "to exercise their franchise in an informed and intelligent manner." On December 14, 1998, petitioner's request for interim relief was denied.

Respondent held a special meeting of the school district voters on December 15, 1998 to vote on the bond proposition. At the special meeting voters cast 1,701 'yes' votes and 1,496 'No' votes, approving the bond referendum. Petitioner did not appeal the results of the vote.

The appeal must be dismissed on procedural grounds. First, respondent asserts that the appeal is untimely. Section 275.16 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education requires that an appeal be initiated within 30 days of the decision or action complained of, unless excused for good cause. Here, petitioner challenges respondent's unanimous adoption on October 26, 1998 of the language of the bond proposition. The record indicates that respondent published the bond proposition in a local newspaper initially on October 31, 1998 and three times thereafter, as required by Education Law "2004. Petitioner did not commence this appeal until December 9, 1998 - more than 30 days after respondent's approval of the proposition language on October 26, as well as its publication on October 31, 1998. Petitioner offers no explanation in his petition for the delay, nor does he submit any reply in response to respondent's assertion of untimeliness. Therefore, I find the appeal was not timely commenced and must be dismissed.

Even if the appeal were timely, it must be dismissed as moot. It is well settled that the Commissioner will only consider matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exists or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 38 Ed Dept Rep 91, Decision No. 13,990; Appeal of Chechek, 37 id. 624, Decision No. 13,943; Appeal of Schuler, 37 id. 512, Decision No. 13,915). The sole relief sought by petitioner was a stay of the December 15, 1998 special district meeting so that the proposed proposition could be revised. Petitioner's request for interim relief was denied. The voters approved the bond proposition at the December 15, 1998 special district meeting, and petitioner did not challenge the results of that vote. Accordingly, there is no further relief that can be awarded in this appeal, and the matter is moot.