After school board members and district officials spent months trying to plan out their budgets for the 2020 - 21 school year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on April 3 delaying budget votes until at least June 1.
The votes were to have taken place on May 19.
Under the executive order, “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 will take place on June 1 remains to be seen, however, as the coronavirus pandemic is fluid. If new cases were to continue to arise, state officials said, the vote could be delayed further.
But local school district officials have already been working on their budgets. Sewanhaka Central High School District Superintendent James Grossane, for example, presented a budget proposal at the end of February that would include a $1.8 million investment into security enhancements at all five schools. The cost of these measures — which include the installation of security vestibules at the high schools — would vary between the schools, and would contribute to a $5.7 million, or 2.8 percent, increase in expenditures over the current budget.
In a statement to the Herald, Grossane said, “The board and I are in daily contact, and will present any revisions in our draft budget to the community as soon as it is available.”
Making the process more difficult, however, is an expected $10 to $15 billion gap in the state’s budget, which Cuomo said is “unprecedented.”
As a result, Theresa Hennessy, assistant superintendent for finance and management at the Franklin Square School District, said she was examining how the preliminary state aid numbers would affect the district’s plans, and noted, “We’re being told our aid could be cut throughout the year.”
She added that Cuomo’s executive order would push the entire budgetary process back, and said district officials are waiting to get more clarification about the effects of the executive order from their attorneys.
But Anthony Maffea, a member of the Elmont School District Board of Education, said he was glad Cuomo delayed the vote. “Right now, our focus has been the home-based learning, providing students the meals they need, and child care for front-line workers,” he said, adding that the district was in the final stages of developing its budget — which would maintain all programs and fund building improvements.
In fact, he said, he hoped the vote would be delayed until the fall to “let the state recover.”
“Hopefully the hit on state aid will not be too bad,” Maffea said, “and life in general will be back to something resembling normalcy.”