MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The first step has been taken that could help the Mahopac School District avoid having to pay back state aid for missing a paperwork filing deadline eight years ago.
Sen. Pete Harckham’s legislation, passed in the New York State Senate last week, would provide relief to the district, which is facing a severe state aid takeback due to the missed filing deadlines in the 2011-12 school year.
“I’m happy the Senate took action to prevent a penalty against a school district, its students and the taxpayers for filing errors made by a former administration,” Harckham said. “I’m hopeful that the Assembly will soon pass their version of this bill, introduced by Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, and that the governor will sign the measure.”
The Mahopac Central School District completed several capital projects eight years ago, but due to the administrative errors of a prior administration, neglected to submit the final cost reports to the state. The bill passed by the New York State Senate will allow for the submission of this paperwork without incurring any additional hardship on the school district.
“It was a host of projects, not just one,” said Harvey Sotland, assistant superintendent for business affairs, who was not on staff at the time of the error. “It was a bundle of energy performance contracts that were being done in conjunction with Con Edison. Virtually every building was touched by it. That project ended in 2010-11.”
But, Sotland explained, at the end of every capital project, school districts in New York must send a final cost report to the state Education Department.
“All it really is is a summary of all the expenditures by contractor and by trade,” Sotland said. “It’s a prescribed form they give us that we have to fill out. It’s nothing complicated.”
Still, the Mahopac administration, led at the time by Superintendent Thomas Manko, neglected to file the paperwork.
“When I came on board in July (2018), I was looking at some reports that the state had posted online on their website and I noticed there was a slew of projects that had no final cost report filed,” Sotland explained. “So, I knew right away if that happened to be the truth, then we were in jeopardy at some point with [the state] catching up with us and us losing aid and having to repay [money] we’d already received. We wanted to be transparent. I reached out to the state and verified they didn’t receive [the reports] and that really set things in motion.”
Sotland said that if the penalties go through, Mahopac would have to pay back the money it has received to date over a 10-year period—about $3 million. It would also be ineligible for any further aid on those projects.
“Each year we would be impacted by close to $700,000,” he said.