In an executive order issued on Friday, May 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that this year’s school budget votes and board of education elections will take place on June 9, via absentee ballot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following budget adoption, each district will make the proposed budget available to the public. A public hearing will also be held remotely and a budget notice and newsletter will be mailed to all residents after the budget hearing. This procedure is no different than other years except for the hearing being held remotely.
The Pine Bush Central School District will hold its public hearing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26. This hearing will be livestreamed on the district’s website. The Valley Central School District has set their budget hearing for June 1 at 6 p.m., which will be livestreamed on the district’s Facebook page. This year’s Wallkill Central School District budget hearing will be livestreamed on the district website on May 28 at 7 p.m.
The executive order calls for districts to send each qualified voter a postcard with the date of the election, the date of the budget hearing and the definition of a qualified voter. Absentee ballots will be mailed on or about May 22 to all registered voters. There will be no in-person voting for the 2020 school board and budget elections. Ballots must be received at the district office by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9.
Cuomo’s executive order also waived the minimum signature total for board of education candidates. This means that residents who wanted to run for a seat on the board of education did not have to ask for signatures. However, candidates must have met all of the other requirements to run for the board. Petitions for board of education candidates were due by 5 p.m., May 11 at each respective district’s office.
School board candidates must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years of age or older. They must be able to read and write. Candidates must have lived in the district continuously for one year prior to the election and cannot be an employee of the school district they wish to serve. In addition, they must be the only member of their family on the school board. Applicants may not simultaneously hold another incompatible public office, including, but not limited to superintendent, clerk, tax collector, treasurer, librarian or an employee of the board. Candidates must not have been removed from a school district office within one year preceding the date of appointment or election to the board.
Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Valley Central Board of Education. Incumbents Joseph Bond, Sheila Schwartz and newcomer Katie McKnight look to serve on the school board. Four candidates are running for three open seats on the Wallkill School Board. Incumbents Kathryn Anderson and Vincent Petroccelli look to be re-elected while Michael Rose and David Bartolone hope to join the board. Tasha T. Butler and incumbents Kristi Kheiralla and Cara Robertson are vying for two open seats on the Pine Bush Board of Education. Each term will last three years, commencing July 1, 2020 and concluding June 30, 2023.
“There’s no understanding of the educational system and what you need to run it,” Petrocelli said. “That’s one of the things that I’d like to accomplish to have them understand more about the educational issues and what they do up in Albany and how it impacts these school districts in New York State.”
Valley Central Deputy Superintendent Michael Bellarosa noted that districts are working on plans to reopen in the fall. There is much uncertainty about what education and interscholastic athletics will look like then.
“What we can tell you is we do not expect it to look the same as what we’re used to,” he said. “Even if we reopen with 100 percent capacity with everybody coming back in and a home football game the first weekend, even if all those things happen we are still going to have to plan for what if [there’s another outbreak of COVID-19].”