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Five Towns school budget votes delayed to at least June 1

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School budget votes in the Lawrence and Hewlett-Woodmere school districts have been delayed until at least June 1 because of the coronavirus outbreak, by order of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

The votes were to have taken place May 19.

The governor issued the executive order March 30. It states:

"Any school board, library board, or village election scheduled to take place in April or May of 2020 is hereby postponed until at least June 1, 2020, and subject to further directive as to the timing, location or manner of voting for such elections."

Whether the school budget votes take place on June 1 remains to be seen. The coronavirus pandemic is fluid, and if new cases were to continue to arise, the vote could be delayed further, state officials said.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations in Lawrence Jeremy Feder said that the district will wait and see the next steps the state will take before making any decisions.

“We’re waiting for further guidance from the state as things are changing regularly with the pandemic,” Feder said. “That’s as honest as I can be right now.” The proposed budget for Lawrence is $102,490,053, a .04 percent tax-cap increase over the current $102,449,281 budget.

Pushing back the vote will also give state and local officials a clearer picture of New York's finances after the COVID-19 virus forced tens of thousands of businesses to close and sales tax collections to plummet. The governor had earlier predicted a $10 billion to $15 billion gap in the state budget, which is unprecedented. 

The State Legislature passed a $177 billion budget April 1, but it is riddled with uncertainty because no one knows precisely how long the coronavirus crisis will last, or what form it will take in the near future. The governor has said modeling predicts that the peak of cases in New York is expected within the next seven to 21 days, but the state could continue to see cases into August.

Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education President Mitchell Greebel said that the current budget proposal for the district could change if the state budget changes.

“It’s fairly certain with what's happening that we're going to see a decrease in state aid,” Greebel said. “That’s what we're going to have to look at and see how it impacts our budget.” The preliminary fiscal plan is $126,882,632. It also has a $12,645,293 in state aid, a $314,366 increase from the current budget. 

Greebel added that Hewlett-Woodmere will have another public budget forum with a date still to be determined. “As of now, there is no date,” he said. “We need to get it done before the fiscal year is over on June 30 so we need to have a budget in place by July 1.”