The Port Washington School District released a statement on May 22 to update the community about an issue with the district’s 2016-17 transportation state aid that the Board of Education discussed at a public meeting last fall. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen A. Mooney explained that the error was discovered while the district was preparing a comprehensive document listing all contracts and extensions that is required annually by the State Education Department (SED), and that the Board of Education president informed the community at the first available public meeting on Oct. 17, 2017.
While the district was completing the document, they found that the 2016-17 transportation contracts had not been submitted by the SED deadline prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year and the district’s business office immediately tried to rectify the situation by submitting the necessary past-due paperwork, explained Mooney.
“Protocols were also reviewed to ensure this one-time error did not occur again in the future,” added Mooney.
The paperwork in question must be filed within 120 days of the first day of service and the maximum amount of aid in question is about $818,000.
The update on the status of the situation posted on the district’s website reads, “The district has been diligent in its efforts to favorably rectify this situation. We have been working closely with Sen. Elaine Phillips and Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso, who have been acting on our behalf in Albany to remedy the issue. Despite numerous attempts, as of this time we have not yet received a resolution, the exact dollar amount or when it will affect the district’s finances from SED. We express our sincere appreciation to both the Senator and Assemblyman for their efforts on behalf of our school district and community. Initial legislation seeking group amnesty for several school districts throughout the state, including Port Washington, which missed submission deadlines, was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo prior to approving the state budget. Currently, the Senator and Assemblyman are working in Albany seeking passage of a second piece of legislation to secure a favorable resolution for Port Washington. We are hopeful this legislation will be passed.”
Along with the district’s statement was one from Phillips.
“During my tenure as State Senator, I have fought to deliver record state aid for Port Washington schools and worked with school district leaders to address challenges such as emergency repairs to the Guggenheim Elementary School leaking roof and support for academic enrichment and health programs benefitting students and the school community,” said Phillips. “I remain committed to working with school administrators to protect students and taxpayers facing this unexpected financial hurdle and have introduced legislation intended to remedy the situation. It is my hope the measure will pass both the Senate and Assembly, and signed into law by the Governor, before the end of this current session next month.”
The SED indicated to the district that it is working with both Phillips and D’Urso to assemble the legislative paperwork to assist the district in obtaining a one-time forgiveness, explained Mooney.
“Between October and May, the district was actively engaged in working with the SED and local legislators to resolve this situation with minimal impact to the district’s state aid,” said Mooney. “At this point, the district is doing everything it can to secure a favorable decision. To date, there has been no final resolution and those efforts are ongoing. Once the SED informs the district of the exact amount of state aid affected, the Board will inform the community.”