New York State Senators Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District), John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) and Michael A.L. Balboni (7th Senate District) today introduced legislative proposals to give taxpayers more of a voice and create additional accountability on the part of the school districts.
Senator Fuschillo’s legislation would alter the education law to require a school district to adopt a contingency budget if the voters fail to approve the proposed budget after the first vote.
Currently, a school board has two options when their original proposal is not approved by the voters. If a district’s budget is defeated, the district has the option of proposing a second budget (either the same budget or a revised version) for a re-vote, or they can choose to adopt a contingency budget. If the second budget is defeated, the district must adopt a contingency budget.
"The ‘One Vote’ principle is at the very heart of our democracy and should be adhered to in all elections" said Senator Fuschillo. "Voters who exercise their right to vote should know, without any reservations, that their vote will be given full value by the school district and that their voice will be heard."
Senator John J. Flanagan (R,C-East Northport), who supports the new reforms, said, "These legislative reforms will ensure that money budgeted for educating children is being expended correctly. The public is genuinely concerned about how their dollars for education are being spent. They must feel confident that there are effective internal controls, responsible budgeting and prudent expenditure of taxpayers’ funds."
Senator Balboni’s legislation is aimed at improving the accountability of schools and school officials. The legislation contains three main provisions:
1 - Requires the state Comptroller to audit every school district at least once every three years;
2 - Allows the courts to seek restitution from individuals convicted of stealing from a school district; and
3 - Requires school district officials to disclose in writing whether they or their spouse have or acquires an interest in any financial agreement that may be a potential conflict of interest. This disclosure will be given to the official’s supervisor and to the school board and can be publicly obtained.
Furthermore, Senator Balboni also introduced legislation requiring school officials to complete annual financial disclosure statements similar to those required of state and municipal elected officials. The statements will be filed with the local town or city clerk, and be available for public review.
"We need to restore the community’s justifiably shaken confidence, and put back the ABCs in education – accountability, believability and conscience," Balboni said. "The general public will benefit from increased scrutiny of the private financial activities of individuals entrusted with public funds."
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