FULTON – Gov. Kathy Hochul this month vetoed a bill that would have amended a looming fine for the Fulton City School District, prompting a response from local education and elected leaders.
On October 8, Hochul maintained a precedent set under previous Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto a bill that would overturn the denial of transportation assistance to the Fulton City School District (FCSD) over a mistake. 2015 ‘hard’. The paperwork error could have cost the FCSD more than $ 1 million.
According to Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay R-Pulaski, the lack of legislative support from the governor’s office was an “unfriendly” move against the district and its students.
“While not ideal, clerical errors are common in municipal governance,” Barclay said in a statement earlier this month. “In most circumstances, these situations are easily resolved by legislative action and no harm results. Withholding more aid is needlessly punitive and extremely disappointing for families residing in the school district. “
The issue stems from a December 2015 decision by the FCSD board of directors to request an extension to forward the district’s annual transportation contracts to state officials. Transportation assistance, like many other aspects of education spending, can be partially funded by the state if districts follow this route. Fulton is one of some 230 districts in the state – more than a quarter of the nearly 800 districts in total – that contract with a third party for transportation services. In the case of Fulton, the third party is Golden Sun Bus Service Inc.
Hochul’s veto is the latest step in a series of failed attempts by lawmakers to correct the problem. State lawmakers have proposed several bills since 2018 to rectify the problem, but each time has been vetoed, which Senator Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton called a “disappointment.”
“While I am disappointed with the Governor’s recent veto on my bill to restore over $ 1 million in transportation assistance to the Fulton City School District, I remain optimistic that this important issue will be resolved in a near future. near future, “Ritchie told the Palladium-Times. this week. “There are nearly a dozen school districts across the state facing similar situations.”
Other separate bills that were vetoed on October 8 rectifying similar issues include: a bill associated with reporting on construction costs in the Central School District of Panama, a bill canceling related issues transportation contracts in the Corning Central School District and another for the Monticello Central School District construction cost reports.
In addition to these, bills dealing with contract issues in the Syracuse City School District and Cold Spring Harbor Central School District are currently under consideration by the state legislature, according to reports. state documents.
FCSD Superintendent Brian Pulvino told the Palladium-Times this week that the district, if no relief bill is passed, faces a $ 1.03 million fine from the Department of State education because of the error. He stressed that the state could, at any time, start restricting certain annual funds from future state aid to cover the fine.
The state has not started this process, he said.
“It would really (just) be a penalty,” Pulvino said. “However, with this hang up, they would have to come back and garnish (the fees) over a three-year period with our state aid.”
Pulvino stressed that no funding for transport had been restricted to the district and that the district had “never had any holdbacks”.
Ritchie said the governor’s office has indicated its intention to address the separate issues in the next state budget. Pulvino added that in his experience it would not be unusual.
“I think they’re going to look at it through the budgeting process, which has been looked at in the past,” Pulvino said.
Barclay said the state shouldn’t have to wait to reverse the issue because it already has the capacity to fix it.
“Recently, New York State has received a tremendous amount of federal and state revenue, as noted in the Budget Division’s first quarter financial plan update. As a result, the state is in a much better position to remedy this error than the school district, ”said Barclay. “The role of government is to take care of residents living in their jurisdiction, not to punish school children for forgetting paperwork.”
Both Barclay and Ritchie have said they intend to continue to push the issue forward through additional legislation in the future. Pulvino said the district thanks them both for their efforts.
“I believe that we will continue on the path we have taken, and as the (governor’s) team gets a better idea of things, I hope there will be a more affirmative result in the future,” Pulvino said.