After wrapping up the official budget request for the 2013-14 school year with agreement on a $10.5 million spending plan that stays within the state-imposed tax cap, Superintendent Michael Hynes addressed the flak that has been consuming headlines this week over the use of software capable of manipulating elections.
Dr. Hynes repeated his statement of Wednesday that Shelter Island had only used the software to manage its voter registration lists and never used it to identify people on election day who hadn’t yet voted but would likely be predisposed to approving the budget.
He also said the Bold Systems LLC software has been in use by school districts for 25 years and that the money spent to purchase it is reimbursed by New York State the year after a district buys it.
The explanation came at the request of board president Stephen Gessner who asked Dr. Hynes to explain its use to those who have been reading about the software use by at least 60 Long Island school districts. The story first surfaced in Newsday and was picked up quickly by other papers throughout Long Island and New York City.
After Dr. Hynes finished his explanation, Dr. Gessner emphasized that the only use the district has made of the software has been to “expedite the process of voting.”
The unanimous board vote on the budget resulted from what Dr. Hynes called very hard work on the part of the administration and Board of Education to make difficult decisions on cuts. But he said he’s confident the budget met the initial goals of maintaining programs important to students and going forward with a more rigorous plan to improve outcomes for Shelter Island students.
In response to a question from board member Marilynn Pysher about what happens if the budget is turned down by voters during the May 21 balloting, Dr. Hynes said the district could put the same or a revised budget up for a second vote. But if that failed, the district would be forced to adopt a contingency budget dictated by the state.
“That would be catastrophic,” Dr. Hynes said.