PANAMA – Legislation that would forgive a nearly $2 million penalty assessed by the State Education Department against Panama Central School District is taking a step forward.
Sponsored by Senator George Borrello, the act would forgive fines issued following a late filing of a final cost report to the State Education Department.
“It’s inconceivable why the Education Department would burden a small, rural school district with such a heavy penalty, essentially taking money that should be used to educate our kids,” Senator Borrello said in a statement.
In the past Governor Cuomo has vetoed the legislation, noting that fine forgiveness is an issue that should be addressed in the context of the budget.
This year, the Senate complied with that request and included in its one-house budget bill, full forgiveness for all school districts burdened by these fines, a measure Borrello has supported.
“While the final budget did forgive similar fines in a small handful of school districts, Panama was not among them,” furthered Borrello. “It is unfair to arbitrarily pick winners and losers when the education of our children is involved.”
The bill will next head to the full Senate for a vote. Companion legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Goodell will be considered by the Assembly’s Education Committee on Wednesday.
Panama Central School District was assessed a $4.9 million penalty by the New York State Education Department that resulted from a late final cost report on a 2005 capital project.
That year, the district completed a small maintenance project that it believed to be properly documented as “closed.”
The district, upon reviewing the state’s website in 2012, found that it still had an “open” project on file. This information was not made available to Panama Central School when it was closing out its 2005 building project.
However, in the eyes of the State Education Department, Panama Central School neglected to file a final cost report for this building project within the required timeframe. The fine was partially paid through a series of grants.
Senator Borrello’s legislation would forgive the remaining $1.9 million of the penalty.