A filing error dating back eight years could result in the Mahopac Central School District losing millions of dollars in New York State aid if special legislation isn’t passed to remedy the impending penalties.
A cost report filing for a capital project due during the 2011-12 school year was never submitted to the state, which could now result in the school system losing about $4 million overall. The district completed several capital projects that year, but errors from a past administration have now led to trouble for the school community that includes some students that weren’t even alive when the oversight occurred.
Assistant superintendent for business affairs Harvey Sotland said he noticed last July there was a form regarding eight small, energy efficient projects that totaled $11 million that was never submitted to the state from 2012. The form is basically a recap of what was spent, he noted.
Because the deadline was missed, the state could withhold money it was going to give the district and force Mahopac to repay money it already received, too. The district would need to pay back $3.1 million, likely over multiple years, and would lose out on $2.7 million it is supposed to receive.
“Somebody said to me it’s like getting the death penalty for jaywalking,” Sotland said. “And it’s true.”
Local state lawmakers are working to push through legislation that would waive the penalties the district faces. NYS Sen. Peter Harckham introduced the legislation, which is currently in the finance committee, that would provide relief to the Mahopac school system.
“There’s no reason to penalize a school district, its students and taxpayers so severely with a state aid take back for filing errors made by a former administration,” Harckham said in a statement.
Former superintendent Thomas Manko, who was in charge back when the filing error occurred, did not return an email seeking comment.
This year’s budget was not affected and the capitol project referendum also on the ballot this May would receive all the possible state aid available, Sotland said.
Current school chief Anthony DiCarlo said in a statement that if legislation isn’t passed, multiple budgets would be affected going forward.
“We are hurting students, teachers, programs and the community for an error in filing a state report from 8 years ago,” he said.
Sotland said other districts have been in the same position before, with some of the bills passing in the state Legislature and others not. Sotland said he is preparing next year’s budget under the assumption the district won’t get relief. The result would be putting more of a burden of property owners, Sotland said.
“As much as we’re hopeful and optimistic that legislation will go through, we have to take a worst case scenario in the event that it doesn’t,” Sotland said.