By Holly Crocco
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a resolution by state lawmakers to “forgive” an administrative error that took place eight years ago at the Mahopac Central School District that could cost district taxpayers millions.
The district completed a bundle of eight capital improvement projects in 2010-11 that were eligible for state aid, and which included energy performance upgrades at almost all of the district’s buildings. The following school year, the district neglected to file the final building projects report on time, making them ineligible for certain aid.
It was eight years before the district realized the report had not been filed, at which time it quickly reached out to the State Education Department, according to Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo.
“This error was immediately self-reported by the district upon discovery earlier this year,” he said.
At that time, the district reached out to State Sen. Pete Harckham, D-Peekskill, and Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, R-Mahopac, who worked together to get the “Mahopac Forgiveness Bill” passed in both houses.
The state legislation would have allowed the district to forgo having to repay $3.1 million it has received so far for the projects, as well as $2.7 million it was still eligible for.
“I am beyond disappointed with Gov. Cuomo’s decision to veto this sorely needed legislation that would have assisted the Mahopac Central School District, and thereby aid our schools, students, and fellow taxpayers,” said Byrne.
“At a time when Albany seems to be pushing for further decriminalization and reduced penalties for criminals, I find it astonishing that Gov. Cuomo won’t afford some level of forgiveness to taxpayers for an honest mistake made due to a filing error almost nine years ago,” he continued. “MCSD acted in good faith by making the error known and by trying to right the mistake of a prior administration. Sadly, it seems they are being punished for it.”
According to news reports, Cuomo recently had eight bills on his desk from various districts asking for forgiveness for similar administrative errors, and it is unclear how he decided which districts should be spared.
He signed a bill that forgives the Roscoe Central School District of $1.1 million in penalties for a paperwork omission made years ago, as well as a bill forgiving the Spackenkill Union Free School District of $5.5 million in penalties for the late filing of paperwork also related to construction projects.
However, in addition to Mahopac, a similar bill that would have forgiven a $1.9 million penalty against the Monticello Central School District was also vetoed.
But local lawmakers and school leaders say they are not throwing in the towel.
“We have been working closely with the senator and assemblyman in helping to facilitate this bill being passed,” said DiCarlo. “Although we are disappointed with regard to this result, we… will work together to continue to provide our students with a first-rate education, as a part of ‘the Mahopac way’ and our continued commitment to excellence.”
The superintendent said the district will work with both Harckham and Byrne in crafting a new bill in 2020 “that will once again pass both houses and hopefully be signed by the governor.”