Mahopac schools get ‘death penalty for jay-walking,’ says superintendent

MAHOPAC – The state legislature has approved a bill to provide the Mahopac School District with state aid resulting from an administrative error made in the Thomas Manko administration during the 2011-2012 school year.

The measure introduced in the State Senate by Senator Peter Harckham and in the lower house by Assemblyman Kevin Byrne was approved with bi-partisan support and now awaits the governor’s signature.

If he refuses to sign the legislation, Putnam County’s largest school district may lose $5.9 million.

The chain of events was revealed in April when Mahopac’s current Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo reported a state filing was not submitted on time eight years ago that followed the approval of a referendum for several capital projects.

“The state has issued a penalty against the district for the clerical error which is unfortunate and not the right thing to do – an action  that will hurt students, teachers, programs and the greater Mahopac community in general,” said DiCarlo.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Harvey Sotland explained once the error was discovered, the district was transparent and the matter was reported to Albany. “New York State advised that moving forward the district would no longer be receiving state aid for the successful referendum while aid the school already received over the years would have to be returned.”

Sotland added should the district not receive a favorable outcome from Albany, the Mahopac schools would have to pay it back over the next 10 years.

“We have been given the death penalty for jay-walking,” he said.

Sotland said he was not “minimizing this error in any way but this was nothing more than failing to submit a simple report. Someone dropped the ball resulting in a potential total of $5.9 million being lost by the district.”

`The project was completed in 2010 with the reports due no later than the 2011-2012 school year.

Harckham thanked his colleagues for taking action to “prevent a penalty against a school district, its students and taxpayers for filing errors made by a former administration. I truly hope the state forgives the Mahopac district for the missed filings, allowing the district to receive the state building aid it was promised.”

Byrne noted that “New Yorkers in the Hudson Valley pay some of the highest property taxes in the country making it absolutely critical that the legislation be approved in both houses of state government. I hope Governor Cuomo signs the bill resulting in no new financial burdens placed upon residents of greater Mahopac.”

Requests made to the governor’s office inquiring as to if and when he would sign the bill were not answered.

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