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Decision No. 15,392

Appeal of GEORGE R. HUBBARD from action of the Board of Education of the Greece Central School District regarding budget propositions.

Decision No. 15,392

(March 30, 2006)

Harris Beach LLP, attorneys for respondent, James A. Spitz, Jr., Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges actions of the Board of Education of the Greece Central School District ("respondent") regarding the use of separate propositions to authorize and fund the purchase of certain vehicles and a change in its transportation policy. The appeal must be sustained in part.

On April 12, 2005, respondent adopted a proposed budget resolution and two propositions to be placed on the ballot at the annual district election. Proposition 1 authorized the expenditure of $1,585,000 for the purchase of up to 25 new buses and one snow removal vehicle. Proposition 2 authorized a change in the district's transportation policy to provide transportation for all students in grades three through five at a cost of $215,000. This appeal ensued. Petitioner's request for interim relief was denied on May 5, 2005.

Petitioner contends that the funds for both propositions should have been included in the main district budget because their separate presentation keeps the main budget artificially low and therefore misleads the voters. Petitioner also alleges that respondent failed to provide funds in the district budget for added maintenance costs should Proposition 1 be defeated. Petitioner maintains that while it is proper to place a change in the transportation policy in a separate proposition, the funds to pay for that change should be included in the main district budget. Petitioner requests that respondent be directed not to use separate propositions to seek authorization to purchase new buses and levy taxes therefor, or to seek authorization to levy taxes for changes in the district's transportation policy.

Respondent asserts that petitioner has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and that petitioner has failed to meet his burden of proof. Respondent denies that its main district budget is insufficient to meet expenses and that it misled voters. Respondent contends that its use of separate budget propositions is proper.

The appeal must be sustained as to petitioner's contention that respondent should not have used Proposition 1. Pursuant to Education Law ��1716(4) and 1804, a board of education of a central school district is required to present a budget to district voters in three components: an administrative component, a program component and a capital component. Section �170.8(d) of the Commissioner's regulations prescribes the items that must be included in the capital component, including general fund budgetary appropriations for operation of plant, maintenance of plant and school bus purchases. Therefore, general fund budgetary appropriations for maintenance vehicles and school bus purchases should be included as line items in the capital component of the budget. A board should only use separate propositions for such purchases when specifically required (e.g. when entering into an installment purchase contract under General Municipal Law �109-b, when bonding, or when appropriating from a capital reserve fund).

As for Proposition 2, petitioner does not disagree with respondent's decision to place proposed changes in the transportation policy in a separate proposition. Petitioner, however, asserts that the cost of that change in policy should be included in the main budget. Petitioner claims that if Proposition 2 were defeated, the cost of the change could be removed from the final budget. Petitioner does not offer any authority for this budgeting practice or propose how voters could approve the cost of a change in policy, but not the change in policy itself. In an appeal to the Commissioner, a petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which petitioner seeks relief (8 NYCRR �275.10; Appeal of Patton, et al., 42 Ed Dept Rep 226, Decision No. 14,832; Appeal of Pope, 40 id. 473, Decision No. 14,530). Petitioner, has failed to establish that respondent improperly included the cost of the transportation policy change in Proposition 2.


IT IS ORDERED that respondent henceforth present its budget in accordance with Education Law ��1716(4) and 1804, and �170.8(d) of the Commissioner's regulations.