"truth In Voting" Ensures Accountability

John J. Flanagan

March 14, 2005

Senator John J. Flanagan (R,C-East Northport) and members of the Long Island Senate Delegation joined in support of Senator LaValle's Truth in Voting Act. The measure ensures that school districts provide the public with clearly defined school budget proposals that include a detailed contingency budget, prior to the school budget vote.

"People are frustrated with misleading school budget information that threatens to cut or eliminate valued programs if the budget is not passed," said Senator LaValle. "A survey I completed last session demonstrated overwhelming support for a change in the way school budget information is presented."

The Truth in Voting Act is a budget reform measure designed to ensure greater accountability in school budget presentations. The Act would require districts to submit budget proposals that include itemized lists of programs scheduled to be trimmed or eliminated under a contingency budget along with the cost of each item. The bill also creates a new "school budget comparison card," which compares the prior year's spending with the proposed budget, equipping voters with the information needed to cast educated budget votes. Both provisions would ensure that voters are not intimidated by laundry lists of programs and services that may or may not be cut if the original budget is defeated.

In addition, the Truth in Voting Act aims to enhance residents' involvement on bond resolutions by requiring that they be voted on at the same time as the school budgets. The measure also statutorily prohibits school districts from disseminating information designed to influence the outcome of a particular vote or election.

"School districts need to provide clear and reliable information to all parents and other taxpayers," said Senator Michael Balboni (R-East Williston). "The 'Truth in Voting Act' will help assure that this happens throughout the state."

Senator John J. Flanagan (R,C-East Northport) said, "The public is genuinely concerned about how their dollars for education are being spent. This legislation will ensure that people know how money budgeted for educating children is being expended. People must feel confident that there are responsible budgeting and prudent expenditure of taxpayers’ funds."

"School budgets are a vital component of the educational future of Long Island students and all voters should have the information they need to make the best possible decision. The ‘Truth in Voting Act’ would provide this necessary knowledge and would allow the voting public to have a truly effective, and open, participation in this important process," said Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., 8th Senate District.

"Our best voter is an educated voter. Becoming educated on a school budget is hard work. It requires a dedication to attending meetings at night, reviewing materials at home and understanding the issues facing our school districts. The best way a taxpayer can protect their interest is to cast an informed vote on budget day. Helping voters get the maximum information before they vote is always a good concept," said Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R-Syosset).

"Public participation in the school budget process is the most effective way to get school district spending under control," said Senator Caesar Trunzo (R-Brentwood) "but too many residents decide not to participate because of a perception that the process is meaningless. School Board members are elected officials, just like legislators, and will respond to public participation. This legislation demands fuller disclosure of school budget information so residents can make decisions based on facts, not threats and rumors. It will help convince residents that their vote really does count."

"The ‘Truth in Voting Act’ is very important legislation that will enable voters to make informed decisions about their local school budgets," said Senator Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). "By requiring school boards to clearly disclose all information relating to their budgets, this bill establishes a more transparent, accountable process."

"I am pleased to have the support of my colleagues on this measure," said Senator LaValle. "Providing aid to education is one of the most important responsibilities we have as Legislators. Part of that responsibility includes ensuring the state holds school districts accountable for spending taxpayer dollars appropriately and in a manner that will bring about a cost-efficient quality education. The 'Truth in Voting Act' helps accomplish that by shedding more light on the process and, the more light that is shed, the better the process will become."