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Dansville school budget public vote due June 16

Jeff Miller
The Express
The public vote for school districts' 2020-21 budget is being conducted via absentee ballots this year, due to an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

DANSVILLE — The public vote for school districts’ 2020-21 budget is being conducted via absentee ballots this year, due to an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo. Ballots need to be received in the mail by June 16.

During a board of education budget hearing last week via Zoom, and broadcast publicly via Facebook, Dansville school superintendent Dr. Paul Alioto presented the board with the final budget proposal.

Next year’s budget, as proposed to voters by the board, increased by $893,616 or 2.7 percent, totalling a $33,616,146 school budget.

“We’ve had to do a lot of work to get it to that modest of an increase,” he said. To make it work, the district is proposing to combine the transportation and facilities director position and cut one account clerk position; reduce one reading and one physical education teaching position through retirement; reduce three teacher aide positions, reduce one maintenance mechanic and one food service position; pull out of BOCES regional food service so that food made is in-house; reduce costs on supplies and equipment in half, and reduce professional development.

The district is also increasing its use of reserves by $440,000. The estimated tax levy increase is $169,335 or 1.99 percent. Though Alioto is anticipating about a $200,000 cut in state aid, he said in a later interview that school districts do not yet have a final state aid proposal from the governor. Districts were hoping to have that number by May 15. Governor Cuomo pushed that deadline to May 20, and still hasn’t given school districts a final number.

Alioto said the economic crisis that was exacerbated by the pandemic could affect school districts for the next few years. Governor Cuomo has been asking the federal government for help, and Alioto seems hopeful that Washington will step up to the plate.

In addition to the budget, a second proposition is asking voters for permission to purchase two 30-passenger buses at a maximum cost of $62,500 each; and two SUVs at a maximum cost of $52,750 each. The local share of the purchase would not include a raise in taxes. The district would expend $75,000 from the school bus purchase reserve fund, the rest would come from state aid.

Also, two open board seats are uncontested this year. Incumbents Matthew Crane and Brian Applin are running for those two seats.

If individuals have not received ballots by now, contact Vaune Crawford, district clerk, at 585-335-4000 ext. 2300.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will issue an executive order that provides voters and school districts more flexibility as they hold elections for school boards and budgets solely by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The moves comes as some districts across the state have struggled to get the ballots printed and out to property owners in the mail in a timely manner in advance of the elections.

The decision is good news for schools who have been worried about giving voters enough time to fill out their ballots and have them counted.

The state's roughly 700 school districts by law hold budget and board elections on the third Tuesday of May. But the coronavirus delayed the vote.

Separately, Cuomo on Sunday signed legislation to extend the deadline to submit absentee ballots until the day of the state's primary elections June 23.

Now voters can have their primary ballots postmarked by June 23.

Cuomo had previously issued an executive order to allow New Yorkers to vote absentee in the primaries, "ensuring every New Yorker registered to vote receives a postage-paid absentee ballot application in the mail."

"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world, and while we are making great progress and the numbers keep going down, no New Yorker should have to choose between their health and their right to vote," Cuomo said in a statement.

Ninety-eight percent of the school districts plan to stay within the property-tax cap for their 2020-21 budgets, state records show.

Districts are proposing an overall spending increase of 1.8% for the fiscal year that starts July 1 and tax levy increase of 2.2%.

Earlier Sunday, Cuomo announced that schools can hold in-person graduations of up to 150 people starting June 25.