Minor Errors That Harm Students
As a constituent who cares deeply about quality public education, I am writing to ask for your support in addressing the unduly harsh penalties associated with school district final cost reports for capital projects and transportation contracts that contain minor errors. Currently, if a school district makes a ministerial error on or does not submit its paperwork in a timely fashion, the district is in jeopardy of losing all its state building or transportation aid. This system of oversight is antiquated, unduly punitive and has caused problems in both high- and low-wealth districts.
In the end, the current system hurts students. If a district runs into problems with its final cost report, it could be forced to slash programming and resources for students because of the harsh penalty in law. If a district has an issue with a transportation contract, transportation options for children are lost. I do not believe this was the intent of the Legislature.
The current penalty of clawing-back state aid, stemming from either a mistake on or a late submission of paperwork has a much greater impact on low-wealth, under-resourced school districts. These districts are not equipped to absorb the impact these penalties have on programming and resources for students. For low-wealth districts, facing the loss of state building or transportation aid is potentially catastrophic, as they would not be able to levy the taxes required to absorb the fiscal hit to their budget.
Currently, there are many school districts, throughout the state that have been identified as having their state aid subjected to recovery for problems associated with their final cost reports or transportation contracts. The school districts are: Panama (Chautauqua County); Fulton (Fulton County); Corning (Steuben County); Cold Spring Harbor (Suffolk County); Huntington (Suffolk County); Islip (Suffolk County); Liverpool (Onondaga County); Mahopac (Putnam County); and Monitcello (Sullivan County).
Low-wealth districts are typically able to take on school building capital projects because of the promise of state building aid. Without the state's assistance, such districts would never be able to afford these projects on their own.
The Legislature finds that it must deal with a number of bills every year that normalize and validate final cost reports and transportation contracts in order to save districts from losing their state aid, thereby protecting student academic programs and services.
Surely there is a better, more efficient way to oversee building aid projects and transporting children by school districts without sacrificing their financial health, their ability to maintain current programs and services for students and the and safety of those that work and learn in our schools, while still maintaining strict fiscal controls.
I ask that you, your conference and your leadership advocate for legislation to eliminate any fiscal penalty to a school district stemming from ministerial errors or the late submission of final cost reports and transportation contracts.
I thank you for your consideration of these important issues. I would appreciate a reply to my correspondence.
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