MASSENA — In a year when no voters will head to the polls to vote on school budgets, the Massena Central School District has seen a tremendous increase in the number of absentee ballots.
“Usually in these board elections we have about 150 absentee ballots because everyone else tends to come in and vote in person. We’re sending out about 9,000 absentee ballots,” Superintendent Patrick Brady said during Tuesday’s public budget hearing.
That’s because Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has directed all school districts throughout the state to use absentee ballots for this year’s budget vote and school board election on June 9. Ballots must be returned by 5 p.m. June 9, the official day of the vote.
“Everybody in the state is voting at the same time and at the exact same deadline,” Mr. Brady said.
He said they obtained lists of voters from county officials, and the recommendation from their school counsel was to send one ballot out per household.
“Then, as people wanted more ballots, to contact us. Not everybody remains in these same households and these lists can be old, and we want to be sure that they get to the people they need to get to within our limited resources. As you can imagine, with 700 schools around the state all going absentee ballot, there was a premium on envelopes and other supplies for this to occur,” Mr. Brady said.
District Clerk Candace Prairie said the approximately 9,000 absentee ballots were scheduled to be mailed from the Massena Post Office on Wednesday. While one ballot will be sent out initially to voters, additional ballots can be obtained by contacting her at 315-764-3700, ext. 3008, or email email@example.com.
She said additional ballot requests have been received and are still coming in daily, and will be mailed promptly. Voters are asked to be patient in receiving their household’s second or third ballot in the mail by allowing time for them to be delivered by postal carriers.
A pre-stamped return envelope will be provided. There will also be a secure drop box in the main doorway of the Central Administration Building starting Friday. Ballots can be dropped off from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until June 9.
Voters will be asked to approve a $56.7 million budget which carries a 1.99 percent tax levy increase. That will raise $278,982. The district’s actual tax cap is 3.91 percent. Mr. Brady said that over the past four years, they’ve had two budgets with no tax levy increase and two with an increase of less than 1 percent.
They’ll also be using $2.26 million from their appropriate fund balance to balance the budget.
“This is a very challenging year to put together a school budget as anybody can imagine,” he said.
Among the concerns that still stand is the possibility of losing some state aid this year.
“When the state passed the budget on April 1, it gave authority for the governor’s budget director to look at expenditures and revenues at different intervals throughout the year and if revenues did not come in as expected or expenditures went over what was expected, they could make adjustments to our state aid,” Mr. Brady said.
“We put together a budget to be able to fund our school district and school programs this year, but we don’t know at a later time where aid may be taken from us or not provided to us. So that’s a concern,” he said.
Voters will also be electing three board of education members from among the seven candidates who submitted their names. Two members will each serve a five-year term starting July 1 and one member will serve a one-year term starting June 10. The two candidates with the highest number of votes will receive the five-year terms, and the candidate with the third highest will receive the one-year term.
This year’s candidates are newcomers Kristy A. Baker, Jodele Hammock, Kayla Lalonde, Keri Lucey, Lloyd St. Louis and Daniel Tusa, and incumbent Robert LeBlanc.
There will also be a proposition to continue seating a non-voting student on the school board.
In addition, the reverse side of the ballot is a proposition to allow the Massena Public Library to transition from a municipal library to a school district library. Voters will also choose a seven-person board of trustees from among the eight candidates — John Bain, Susan Gray, Marie Kirwan, Fred LaChance, Jeanna Matthews, Linda McDonald, Patricia Ryan and Joseph Savoca.
Mr. Brady’s budget presentation can be viewed on the district’s YouTube channel at http://wdt.me/z6S5UX.