How the school budget process works

Today, May 21, is school budget voting day. Each school district has its hot-button issues. I’m not here to tell you how to vote. That is personal and not my business. I’m going to assume you have asked questions and gotten answers. Asking questions or doing an online search is perfectly reasonable. Please don’t depend on those means as the only source of research.

We all need to question the world around us. Knowing how the school budget process works is necessary even after the budget results are in. It’s going to happen again next year.

The budget vote happens each year at the exact same time. Under New York state law, schools start working through their next year’s budget almost six months before this May vote. It isn’t random. There are a series of steps where each school system, to be compliant with New York state law, must submit paperwork to be approved. After months of work, the final result is the school budget we vote upon.

According to the New York State School Board Association’s 46-page document, “Getting it Right: A Review of Elections Requirement,” all New York state schools (excluding those specified under law) must hold their school budget and board member elections on the third Tuesday in May. Since I won’t summarize this document, I will give just a few highlights.

The budget and any propositions must be disclosed well in advance of voting day. There are no surprises. The budget deals with operational expenses for the designated school district. The budget is divided into three main areas: Administrative, capital expenses and program components. Each school system has to keep the public informed through four legal notices published, the first published no later than 45 days before election day. The budget lists expenses and revenue as well as how the information has altered from the previous year. Copies of the budget are available upon request. The budget is not connected to the propositions. Voting yes or no on the school budget only affects passing the budget.

Propositions are separate from one another. Voting for one proposition does not mean all propositions pass. Each proposition’s wording explains how it will be funded if passed. Propositions are on the ballot because people follow the correct procedure and timeline to receive approval. It isn’t an arbitrary process.

Again, I am not telling people how to vote. I just want people to vote. It is important to be part of the process. Thank you to everyone who has worked to make the process transparent.


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