Important School Budget Votes Are Right Around The Corner

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Christopher Friend (R- Big Flats)

It is that time of year when members of the community gather to vote on school budgets. These votes are important as they determine the educational direction of a school and the fiscal responsibilities of a community. I encourage taking an active role in this process by voting.

Each school district is required to hold its budget vote and school board elections on the third Tuesday in May; this year, it’s May 17. If the budget passes, no further action or involvement is necessary and it will be enacted. If voters reject the budget, then school boards can either adopt a contingency budget without going back to the voters, present the original budget or a revised budget for a second vote, or they can adopt a contingency budget and then present one or more propositions that include funds for services that are not covered in the contingency budget.

A school board is only required to submit a budget once before they are able to adopt a contingency budget. Traditionally, a contingency budget is enacted after the voters reject a budget twice. A contingency budget is subject to a cap set at four percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower. This year, the cap is set at 1.92 percent. Under a contingency budget, school boards are only allowed to levy a tax that covers teacher salaries and ordinary contingent expenses, such as transportation and extra curricular activities. There are numerous exemptions for things like enrollment increases or capital projects that allow for further budget growth and often the cap is surpassed due to these exemptions.

If there is a second budget vote, it must be held on the third Tuesday in June, which, this year, is June 21. This is an important process and staying informed about your school’s spending plan and voting will only help to encourage responsible and forward-thinking school budgets.