Budget approved despite COVID-19 limitations

Funda S., Editor in Chief

The annual Commack School District board and budget vote was heavily influenced by the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. By Governor Andrew Cuomo’s orders, the election was by absentee ballot only resulting in approval of the 2020-2021 budget and the re-election of trustees Susan Hermer and William Hender.


There were concerns that this election method may not ensure that the voter’s choices are anonymous, however, it has been confirmed that everything was done by blind ballot. 


“We will have an election worker open the ballot, put the envelope in one pile, [and] without unfolding the ballot, put the ballot in another pile,” said Superintendent Dr. Donald James during the June 2 online budget hearing.  


People who were not registered to vote can file an online application with the Department of Motor Vehicles. After registration, the District will send out an absentee ballot. 


This mail-only election has also proven to be more costly than regular elections for the District. 


“[The ballots] would’ve cost us less than 30 thousand dollars. Instead, [the mailed out ballots] are going to cost us over 75 thousand dollars,” said Dr. James.  


As the Commack Board of Education built the budget, one of their main concerns was the reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.  


“[The Board] certainly needs to provide for the blueprint for reopening. We have a task force broken into six subgroups and they are working on plans for reopening brick and mortar. There’s a group working on what it might look like if we don’t reopen brick and mortar,” said  James.   


This part of the budget also includes supplies that might be necessary for safety if schools reopen in the fall. 


“[The Board has] already ordered sample products and put other products on notice that we will need quite a bit of, whether we’re talking about masks or face shields or cleaning supply materials all the way down to plexiglass and other types of temperature taking items,” said James.  


With this new budget, the Board also announced a new 1 to 1 Chromebook project, where every child will receive a Chromebook for use at home. This new initiative will guarantee that all students have access to a computer if schools continue eLearning. 


“If [schools] have to go back to eLearning, whether it’s September 1st or later in the year, [students will] have them,” said James.  


If schools welcome students in-person, this project may still have benefits for students. 


“[The District is] also moving toward putting our books online. So, our textbooks will be online over the next couple of years because there’s a cost associated with that. The students eventually will not need to carry books and those huge backpacks will become less of a problem,” said  James.  🔳