A nearly $6 million state aid penalty facing the Mahopac Central School District as a result of administrative errors committed nearly nine years ago has been forgiven in the newly-approved 2020-21 state budget.
Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro) said he introduced a forgiveness provision negotiated into the Education, Labor and Family Assistance Article VII Legislation (ELFA) section of the budget. The provision eliminates the requirement for the district to repay $3.1 million in aid Mahopac had received for building improvements related to eight capital projects. District officials submitted flawed paperwork with errors during the 2011-12 school year.
It also rescinds a penalty that would have cost Mahopac another $2.7 million of future state aid for the projects.
Harckham thanked Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) for incorporating the penalty forgiveness for Mahopac into the state budget given the deteriorating economy.
“The Mahopac schools were unfairly singled out for paperwork mistakes made nine years ago, and the financial penalties were going to end up affecting taxpayers, students and district administration who were not even in the district when the mistakes occurred,” Harckham said. “Getting this right for Mahopac residents was a big priority for me.”
Mahopac Superintendent of Schools Anthony DiCarlo said he was pleased to hear that the district had been relieved of the penalty, which will lift a significant burden from district taxpayers. He said once the administrative error was identified by current school officials, the district self-reported the mistake.
“I am delighted with this outcome, which unburdens the taxpayers of the Mahopac Central School District and positions my administration to build a budget for next year and the near future that both supports the needs of our community and ensures the caliber of education to which we are all committed, even in these challenging financial times,” DiCarlo said.
Harckham said there was confusion when the state changed the application process in 2011 for school districts applying for building aid. Mahopac wasn’t alone as multiple districts submitted applications with errors. Because the monetary penalty for Mahopac’s error was significant enough to force the district to seriously reconsider spending priorities in the upcoming years, which was likely to affect staffing and programs, Harckham introduced legislation last year that would grant the district forgiveness.
A bill that was approved last year was vetoed by Cuomo.