UPDATED APRIL 9, 2020
The Bellmore-Merrick school budget vote has been delayed until at least June 1 due to the coronavirus outbreak, by order of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It was originally scheduled for May 19.
On Monday, Gov. Cuomo also ordered all schools to continue to remain closed until April 29. Remote classes will be held throughout the district’s originally planned spring break, which was from April 9 to 17.
The Monday announcement was preceded by another cancellation from the New York State Education Department: the 2020 June regents exams are off, according to Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa.
In a letter to parents sent on April 2, Central High School District Superintendent John DeTommaso noted the postponement, adding that the community will be informed when a new date is set.
The district’s preliminary budget was approved by the Board of Education at their April 1 meeting, which was held over video conference via Zoom. It does not pierce the allotted tax cap.
It is not yet clear if the district will still hold public hearings for the budget, or how the delay will affect the budget process overall.
In the letter, DeTommaso also noted school closures will likely extend beyond the then April 15 re-opening date. “There is no question that we are living through days, weeks and soon to be a month that defy even our wildest thoughts,” DeTommaso wrote. “Yet, while my professional world is changing by the moment, my commitment to your kids and families has not and will not, no matter what the future may bring. That singular mission is the shared purpose of everyone who works in Bellmore-Merrick.”
Superintendent of Business Kate Freeman said that while a delay in the budget vote was anticipated, officials “can’t be 100 percent sure” on a rescheduled date as of yet.
“Right now, there’s just a lot of sitting back and waiting — but not all sitting back; we’re still doing a lot of work over here,” Freeman told the Herald Life.
In a statement to the Herald Life, Bellmore School District Superintendent Joseph Famularo wrote, “We are waiting for more guidelines from the governor’s office and the NYS Education Department. These are unprecedented times and we will respond accordingly.”
"Merrick awaits the establishment of the new date for the [budget] vote," wrote Merrick School District Superintendent Dominick Palma in a statement sent to the Herald Life on Tuesay. "We are hopeful that significant notice is given."
The Bellmore and Merrick Boards of Education will also be providing virtual meetings, Famularo and Palma wrote.
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.
“The state budget was difficult,” Cuomo said in his Friday news conference.
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 2, but it is riddled with uncertainty as 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 the peak of cases in New York is expected within the following seven to 21 days, but the state could continue to see cases into August.