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Decision No. 14,834

Appeal of LINDA REYNOLDS from action of the Board of Education of the Odessa-Montour Central School District regarding an annual district meeting.



(January 31, 2003)


Sayles & Evans, attorneys for respondent, James F. Young, Esq., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner contests the decision of the Board of Education of the Odessa-Montour Central School District ("respondent") not to place a voter proposition on the ballot at the district"s annual meeting.  The appeal must be dismissed.

In May 1994, at the request of two public libraries located within respondent"s district, a proposition was placed on the ballot at the annual meeting asking voters to approve a separate tax levy to fund the libraries.  District voters passed that resolution.  Since then, a group of district voters has attempted to rescind respondent"s authority to levy library taxes (See, Appeal of Cole, et al., 37 Ed Dept Rep 407, Decision No. 13,891).

On March 12, 2002, petitioner and a number of other voters submitted a petition to respondent to place the question of whether respondent should continue to levy library taxes before the district voters at the May 21, 2002 annual meeting.  At its meeting on March 21, 2002, respondent voted to reject the voter proposition on the ground that it was untimely.  Respondent"s policy regarding such propositions states that they must be filed with the district clerk at least 90 days prior to the annual meeting.  The proposition in question was submitted 71 days in advance of the meeting.

Petitioner contends that the 90-day deadline is unreasonable and that it was a conflict of interest for board member Jeff Greuber ("Greuber") to make a motion and to vote on the matter because his wife is employed by one of the libraries.  Petitioner also alleges that the district"s policy was not distributed or supplied to petitioner"s husband when he asked how to submit a proposition.  Petitioner asks that I direct respondent to place the voter proposition on the ballot at the May 2002 annual meeting.

Respondent argues that the appeal should be dismissed as moot and alleges petitioner did not properly name respondent or properly serve the petition.  Respondent also argues that the two libraries are necessary parties to this appeal.  Respondent contends that its 90-day policy is reasonable and states that the policy is available at all district schools.

     The appeal must be dismissed as moot.  The Commissioner will only decide 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 N.S., 42 Ed Dept Rep __, Decision No. 14,817; Appeal of R.R. and K.R., 41 id. __, Decision No. 14,726; Appeal of K.M., 41 id. __, Decision No. 14,699).  The only relief petitioner requests is an order directing respondent to place the library tax proposition on the ballot at the May 2002 annual meeting.  Because that annual meeting has already been held, the appeal must be dismissed as moot.

Even if it were not moot, the appeal would be dismissed on the merits.  In an appeal to the Commissioner of Education pursuant to Education Law "310, petitioner has the burden of establishing the facts upon which she seeks relief and a clear legal right to the relief requested (8 NYCRR "275.10; Appeal of Jones and Frank-Jones, 42 Ed Dept Rep __, Decision No. 14,797).  In this case, petitioner does not dispute that the proposition was submitted after the deadline articulated in respondent"s policy.  Nor does she demonstrate that respondent"s 90-day deadline is unreasonable.  Respondent contends that propositions must be submitted 90 days before the annual meeting in order to meet newspaper publication deadlines, board meeting deadlines and to allow time for review of propositions by its attorney.  Moreover, petitioner has not substantiated her claim that respondent failed to make its policy available to district residents.

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties" remaining contentions.