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SCHULZ v. NEW YORK

February 26, 1997

ROBERT L. SCHULZ, JOHN SALVADOR, JR., GILBERT O. BOEHM, CHARLES D. BURGE, PHD., LELAND D. RYAN, SUZAN DIANE LA DUE, DOUGLAS FREDERICK WATSON, RICHARD ALLEN BERRY, JOHN B. SIBLEY, JR., CLAUDE F. SPROWLS, GARY L. WILLIAMS, AND ANDREA VECCHIO, each and everyone individually and on behalf of ALL NEW YORK CITIZEN-RESIDENT-TAXPAYERS who are qualified to vote on school budgets in local school districts where such voting takes place, EXCEPT THOSE CITIZEN-RESIDENT-TAXPAYERS WHO ARE MEMBERS OF THE NEW YORK STATE TEACHERS UNION ("NYSUT"), THE CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION ("CSEA"), OR THE PARENT TEACHERS ASSOCIATION ("PTA"), Plaintiffs,
v.
THE STATE OF NEW YORK, MARIO M. CUOMO, GOVERNOR; THE NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATURE, RALPH MARINO, SENATE PRESIDENT PRO-TEM, SAUL WEPRIN, SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY; NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, THOMAS SOBOL, COMMISSIONER; THE HARRISVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION AND THE EAST ISLIP UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, individually and as representative of all governing boards or bodies of local public school districts in New York State where the taxpayers of those districts are asked to vote on the annual budget for those school districts; BONIE SANDERSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUPERINTENDENT OF THE HARRISVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, SCOTT BAKER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PRESIDENT OF THE HARRISVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, AND ROBERT RICE, JR., NEIL BOUSMAN, MARIANNE DICOB, RANALD LUTHER, WILLIAM MEALUS AND CHARLES RIPLEY, EACH INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MEMBERS OF THE HARRISVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT'S BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCAVOY

 I. BACKGROUND

 A. Procedural Background

 The pro se plaintiffs in this action are members of the All-County Taxpayers Association, a "good-government advocacy organization." Its founder and President, Robert L. Schulz, has been a frequent litigator in federal and state court. Plaintiffs' current complaint contends that several New York Statutes, which relate to voting on proposed state school district budgets, violate the New York Constitution and United States Constitution.

 Specifically, Plaintiffs assert three causes of action: (1) New York Education Law § 2023 violates Plaintiffs' rights under the New York Constitution Article II, § 1, and Article I, §§ 6 & 14, and that these deprivations violate Plaintiffs' right to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; (2) New York Civil Service Law § 209-a violates Plaintiffs' rights under the New York Constitution Article II, § 1, Article I, § 14, and accordingly their federal and state due process rights; and (3) violations of New York Education Law § 2010 by the Harrisville defendants amount to deprivations of their federal and state due process rights.

 Plaintiffs filed the instant Complaint on April 19, 1993. All of the plaintiffs in this action were also plaintiffs in two actions filed in state court which raised claims similar to those raised here. Consequently, the proceedings in this Court have been stayed to allow the state court to address these issues first.

 On October 25, 1993, Justice Hughes of the Supreme Court, Albany County, dismissed Plaintiffs' claims which raised issues identical to their first and second causes of action in this case. Schulz v. State, Albany County Index No. 3281-93. Plaintiffs' appeal from that judgment was dismissed by the Appellate Division, Third Department, on June 19, 1995. Also on October 25, 1993, Justice Hughes dismissed Plaintiffs' remaining claim. Schulz v. State, Albany County Index No. 3282-93. Plaintiffs' appeal from this second judgment was dismissed by the Appellate Division, Third Department, on May 16, 1995.

 B. Factual Background

 Plaintiffs are citizen-taxpayers of the State of New York and registered voters and taxpayers of various municipalities and school districts. The State defendants are the Governor, the Legislature, and the Commissioner and Department of Education. Also named as defendants are the Harrisville Central School District and the East Islip Union Free School District.

 At the root of Plaintiffs' complaint is that two provisions of New York's statutory law deny them a "meaningful vote" on spending and taxing issues related to school budgets.

 The first challenged provision is New York Education Law section 2023 which states:

 
If the qualified voters shall neglect or refuse to vote the sum estimated necessary for teachers' salaries, after applying thereto the public school moneys, and other moneys received or to be received for that purpose, or if they shall neglect or refuse to vote the sum estimated necessary for ordinary contingent expenses, the sole trustee, board of trustees, or board of education may levy a tax for the same, in like manner as if the same had been voted by the qualified voters.

 N.Y. Educ. Law § 2023 (McKinney 1988)(emphasis added). Further, Plaintiffs claim that budgets authorized by section 2023 (commonly called "austerity budgets") are often larger than the proposed budget defeated at the polls.

 The second challenged provision is New York State Civil Service Law section 209-a.1(e) (the "Triboro Law") ...


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