The Three Village Board of Education will join a lawsuit being filed collectively by multiple school districts in New York State with the goal of getting the declared unconstitutional.
Howard Miller, a partner with the firm Bond, Schoeneck, and King, which is handling the lawsuit, said the initiative is being led by the Middletown School District, whose under-the-cap $140.57 million budget passed in May by a margin of 60 votes.
But Three Village was in a different situation after which fell short of the supermajority needed to pass an above-the-cap budget. According to The New York Times, 48 of the state’s approximately 675 school districts attempted to go over the cap – and 29 of them passed. Among those that failed, New Paltz was one of the closest, narrowly missing the supermajority with more than 59 percent voter approval.
"If the governor and the legislature took a look at what cuts have been ... and how this is not good for children, then the legislature will fix it and the schools won’t have to go to court," Miller said in an interview Tuesday. "It shouldn’t really come to that."
Middletown, Three Village, and other districts will challenge the law because administrators say they believe it makes the minority's votes hold more power than the majority's votes. Miller said the lawsuit will also challenge unfunded mandates – rules handed down by the state but not funded by the state.
"I think the goal is to bring about some educational reform and some fairness in school district funding as well as to give back school districts and their taxpayers the local control," Miller said.
But E.J. McMahon, senior fellow at the Empire Center for New York State Policy, in May told The Journal News that the law is constitutional, citing the example that a governor's veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the legislature, according to the state constitution.
If successful, the lawsuit could have meaningful results in the Three Village community.
"We would otherwise believe that we would then be able to adopt the budget that the majority of our citizens voted on," then-school board president John Diviney said in a interview in June.
The Three Village Central School district will spend up to $15,000 related to the lawsuit.
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