NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has thrown a proverbial wrench into school district’s budget planning this year.
Under normal circumstances, the North Salem school board would begin budget planning in February and March and receive the district’s official numbers for state aid in April. It then finalizes the budget and puts it to a vote by the public in May.
However, due to the unforeseen impact the coronavirus has had on the state, Cuomo has issued an executive order that suspends voting on annual school budgets until after Monday, June, 1.
On Monday, March 30, Cuomo signed the order that stated: “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.”
In North Salem, school board members have been meeting via Zoom to discuss the budget planning. However, at their last meeting on Wednesday, April 1, members agreed to table the discussions.
“I think we hit the pause button on the scorecard today and come back at the next meeting with our collective thinking on what kind of adjustments we consider making to the operating budget,” said Superintendent Dr. Ken Freeston.
The “scorecard” is a North Salem tradition where trustees weigh in on the district’s annual budget after hearing presentations by administrators.
Freeston said in an email the decision was made to table budget discussions until there is more information about state revenue.
“In light of the economic impact of the outbreak, we will need to reassess our budget,” Freeston said.
According to the district’s timeline, the budget was initially supposed to be adopted by Wednesday, April 15. A public hearing was set for Wednesday, May 6, and the budget vote and trustee election was to be held Wednesday, May 19.
Freeston elaborated on his thinking at the board’s April 1 meeting.
“Here’s what we know. We know that the vote has changed for the trustees to after June 1 for now. We know the vote for the budget will change to the same date,” Freeston said. “That means all the deadlines we have will be changed by the governor.
We have more time now to see what the next week or two brings.”
School board elections are also affected by COVID-19, with the governor pushing the election date back to June, as well.
Freeston said that candidate petitions are still due on Wednesday, April 20. However, he said, there is a possibility that the governor will change the petition due date “as door-to-door signature gathering and pen sharing are likely problematic now.”
Two seats will be up for grabs this year, as the terms of trustees Andrew Brown and Kurt Guldan are expiring in June.
Brown said that he is seeking reelection.
“The reasons I am running have not really changed,” Brown said. “I feel I have something important to offer the district and its residents, and I really enjoy it.”
Guldan said he is also planning to run again.
“I have enjoyed working with the rest of the School Board, faculty and staff, as well as listening to parents and their concerns and look forward to serving the community,” he said.
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