January 27, 2022

School votes to be done via absentee ballots

Metro Creative Graphics

Voting on school district budgets and school board candidates will take place June 9 statewide — but by absentee ballot only, causing confusion for the districts trying to update notices and mailings in an election season already put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was done with such short notice and lack of guidance that districts are scrambling to meet required deadlines for notices and mailings,” Michael Hoose, the superintendent for the Cortland Enlarged City School District, said in an email.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo postponed the original May 19 school votes on April 19, saying they’d be delayed until at least June 1.

On May 1, he issued an executive order for absentee ballots-only and a vote by June 9, giving districts barely five weeks to finish drafting their budget proposals, develop other ballot propositions, have requisite public hearings before they, and candidates for the school boards, face the voters via absentee ballot.

As a result of adjusting to the new changes and time frame, the district had to move its Tuesday school board meeting to Monday to meet deadline requirements, Hoose said.

At that meeting, the board plans to vote on sending a $50.4 million budget proposal for 2020-21 to voters, and to have a public hearing on it at 6:30 p.m. May 26.

All meetings will be available for the public to view online through a link on the district’s webpage. School board President Janet Griffin, said that voting only by absentee ballots may result in more people voting.

“We usually deliver over 110 absentee ballots each year,” she said in an email. “Normally, anywhere from 400-600 people vote in school board elections. I expect that we will exceed that number.”

Thomas Turck, the superintendent of the Homer Central School District, said his district was also working quickly to adjust to the change.

“It has been difficult to put our plans in place with such short notice on the process,” he said.

Like Cortland, Homer’s school board plans to adopt its proposed budget at its meeting Tuesday night and have a public hearing on May 26, Turck said.

Budget documents haven’t been published to the district’s website as they have not been fully developed, he said.

Both meetings will also be available for the public to attend virtually through a link on the district’s webpage.