Update May 6

The Riverhead Central School District has posted its school board member candidate packet online. The district will hold a virtual public hearing regarding its proposed budget on Tuesday, May 26, at 4 p.m. A link to access the meeting and allow the public to comment will be posted on the district’s website, www.riverhead.net.

The Southampton Union Free School District will hold a Facebook Live public hearing on May 26, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. School Board candidate nominating petitions are online here. More details are on the district’s website.

Petitions for the Sag Harbor School Board are online here.

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District is asking prospective school board candidates to contact the district clerk’s office at 631.298.4242 ext. 3101. Mattituck will hold its budget hearing May 27 and is asking residents to submit questions for that hearing to BOE@mufsd.com. Absentee ballots should be mailed or hand-delivered to 385 Depot Lane, Cutchogue, New York 11935 by 5 p.m. June 9.

We are currently awaiting guidance on budget hearings and forms for prospective school board members in other East End districts.

Original Story Follows:

School budget and board votes, usually held on the East End on the third Tuesday in May, will now be held by mailed absentee ballot on June 9, according to an Executive Order issued by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on May 1.

The budget vote changes come on the heels of Mr. Cuomo’s May 1 decision to keep New York schools closed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

“The school board elections and budget votes will all be conducted by mail and all qualified voters will be sent an absentee ballot with return postage paid,” according to the governor’s order, which also delays local special district and village elections until September 15, 2020.

Mr. Cuomo’s order also eliminates the minimum number of signatures required for school board candidates’ nominating petitions to be placed on the ballot, but candidates must meet age and residency requirements. The candidates will be listed alphabetically on the ballot, and must file their petitions by 5 p.m. on Monday, May 11.

Local school districts hadn’t yet finished preparing their budgets for the 2020-2021 school year when classes were shuttered in mid-March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and New York schools could face severe cuts in state aid as the state recovers financially from the outbreak.

Local school districts could face up to a 50 percent reduction in state aid for the next school year due to statewide revenue shortfalls if the federal government does not provide aid to states hit hard by the pandemic, Mr. Cuomo warned repeatedly in his press briefings throughout late April.

School budget hearings, required to be held not less than seven days and not more than 14 days before school budget votes can be held, will be conducted remotely.

“Each district shall send out postcard notice which details the date of the election, date of budget hearing, definition of qualified voter, and an absentee ballot,” according to the order. Ballots must be received by district clerks by 5 p.m. on June 9.

The budgets for libraries that depend on school districts to administer their budget votes in conjunction with the school budget votes may remain on the ballot.

“We’ve made great progress to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but we still don’t know when this pandemic will end and we don’t want to undo all the work we’ve already done to flatten the curve,” said Mr. Cuomo. “We don’t want to put New Yorkers in a situation where they are possibly putting their health at risk, so we are delaying school board elections and conducting them by mail and delaying all local special district and village elections to help limit any unnecessary exposure to this virus among both voters and poll workers.”

“Our right to vote is fundamental and a hallmark of our democracy. During this time of crisis, we must ensure that access to voting remains accessible for all registered New Yorkers without compromising public health,” said South Fork State Assemblyman Fred Thiele. “Like many of my colleagues, I have been relaying repeated concerns from my constituents about in-person voting, at this time, to the attention of the governor’s office. I am pleased that these important local elections have been delayed or moved to a vote-by-mail system to allow all New Yorkers to safely participate and exercise their right to vote.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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