Skip to main content

Decision No. 14,331

Appeal of JOHN GALLAGHER from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Mount Vernon regarding a budget vote.

Decision No. 14,331

(April 5, 2000)

Aiello & Cannick, attorneys for respondent, Deveraux Cannick, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the actions of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Mount Vernon ("respondent") regarding a budget vote. The appeal must be dismissed.

Mount Vernon is a small city school district with less than 125,000 inhabitants. In 1996, amendments to the Education Law permitted voters in small city school districts to vote for the first time on school district budgets (Education Law "2601-a, L.1996, c.171, "15). The law became effective on September 1, 1996, and applied to budgets for the 1997-98 school year.

On May 6, 1997, respondent submitted a proposed budget to the voters, who rejected it. On June 24, 1997, respondent submitted the same proposed budget to the voters, who again rejected it. Thereafter, respondent adopted a contingency budget in accordance with Education Law "2601-a(5). For the 1997-98 school year, under "2601-a(5), contingent expenses included teachers’ salaries, statutorily required expenses (such as regular transportation), legal obligations of the district, library books and other library instructional materials, and items necessary to maintain the education programs of the district, but did not include interscholastic athletics, field trips or extracurricular activities.

Following respondent’s adoption of a contingency budget, citizens of Mount Vernon circulated two different petitions pursuant to Education Law "2008. The petitions requested that respondent present a proposition to the voters authorizing expenditures for interscholastic athletics and transportation, field trips, technology, equipment, extracurricular activities and other non-contingent items. Respondent scheduled another vote on August 12, 1997 on four budgetary propositions (interscholastic athletics, field trips and extracurricular activities, instructional student computers, and equipment), the total of which equaled the amount of non-contingent expenses in the two previous budgets. The voters approved these four propositions. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner alleges that respondent violated the two-vote limit of "2601-a(4) when it held the August 12 vote on non-contingent items. Petitioner further contends that respondent permitted the PTA to include a flyer in a mailing to district families which asked for a positive vote on August 12. Finally, petitioner alleges that the cost of conducting the third vote was not included in the contingency budget adopted after the June 24 budget defeat. Petitioner requests that I find that respondent violated "2601-a, that I set aside the August 12 vote, and require respondent to operate under the contingency budget adopted following the defeat of the June 24, 1997 budget. Respondent maintains that it submitted the propositions to the voters in accordance with Education Law "2008.

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 Chechek, 37 Ed Dept Rep 624, Decision No. 13,915; Appeal of Lawson, 36 id. 450, Decision No. 13,774). Since the 1997-98 school year is over, the money for the 1997-98 year has already been disbursed and no meaningful relief is now possible (Appeal of Chechek, supra; Appeal of Lawson, supra). Accordingly, the appeal must be dismissed as moot.

I note that subsequent amendments to Education Law ""2023 and 2601-a(5) provide that ordinary contingent expenses now include "expenses incurred for interschool athletics, field trips and other extracurricular activities," and amendments to "2601-a require a board of education of a small city school district to adopt a contingency budget if voters reject a resubmitted budget (Education Law "2601-a, amended by L.1997, c.436, Pt.A, ""28 and 29; Education Law "2023, amended by L.1997, c.436, Pt.A, "24). Thus, there is no longer any need for a small city school district to hold a separate vote on those budget items if the voters defeat the proposed budget.

In light of this disposition, I need not address petitioner’s other claims.