Saratoga County

Court: City actions not intentional

The state Supreme Court has ruled that the city did not intentionally keep an estimated $700,000

PHOTOGRAPHER:

The state Supreme Court has ruled that the city did not intentionally keep an estimated $700,000 in back fees that it collected on the school district’s behalf and, therefore, does not have to reimburse the school district.

The city, school district and Mid-Rise Apartments on North Main Street agreed in 1981 that the apartment owners would pay a yearly fee instead of property taxes.

That money was collected by the city and a portion of it was supposed to be given to the school every year but, until officials discovered the agreement in 2006, it was never paid.

The city was forced to pay the school district $163,000 last year to cover the money that was collected by the city between 2000 and 2006 but never given to the school. The ruling noted that a statute of limitations limited recovery to the years after 2000.

After that ruling, the school district contended that the city knew all along it was collecting the money on behalf of the school but deceived the district by not paying it, which would have voided the statute of limitations.

“It knocked out a potential liability to the city,” City Attorney Val Serbalik said. “I’m comfortable that the decision dismissing their claim was based upon solid reasoning.”

The court also dismissed several counterclaims made by the city against the district for services it provided the district for free, including the use of a salt shed and city equipment.

“Most of the counterclaims were addressed for things that occurred prior to the six year statute of limitations,” Serbalik said. “We said, if they’re going to allow them to litigate a claim from 20 years ago, we want to litigate our claims from 20 years ago.”

In the ruling written by Judge Stephen A. Ferradino Friday, the court said that “this case demonstrates why limitation periods were instituted to prevent litigation of stale claims.”

The school could appeal the decision, but the district’s attorney Robert Ganz said that the Board of Education needs to discuss the matter before he can comment on their plans.

School Board President Michelle Guido declined to comment on the possibility of an appeal because she said she has not spoken with the entire board about the lawsuit.

“There was not, for the court, sufficient evidence that the school district had been actively deceived by the city to permit the exception to the statute of limitations,” Ganz said. “Whether or not an appellate court would agree with that assessment is another matter.”

Serbalik came up with the $700,000 figure based on the yearly payment from 1980 to 1999 the school district should have received plus 9 percent annual interest.

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