The state Senate is trying again to restore $3.8 million to the Schenectady City School District after Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed the previous attempt in September.
The Senate Committee on Education advanced a bill Tuesday that would ensure the district isn’t penalized for a paperwork error it made about nine years ago. As the result of that error, the state technically shouldn’t have funded a transportation contract for six years and is now trying to recoup the money by withholding state aid.
Karen Corona, spokeswoman for the school district, said the state already denied $2.9 million in aid in June 2011 and about $903,000 is set to be denied this year. The first chunk of money came out of the 2010-11 budget, and the second portion comes out of the 2011-12 budget.
State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, who is sponsoring the proposal to restore the funds, characterized the state’s decision on this issue as “unfair punishment.”
Schenectady wasn’t the only district to fall into this category, as school districts around the state had proposals to recover funds, all of which were vetoed by Cuomo in September. The governor’s veto message on the bill affecting Schenectady was that he couldn’t approve it given the “state’s fiscal condition.” He cited this rationale for his other vetoes, too.
“It was really, in my judgment, an unfair punishment to these school districts,” Farley said. “It was really an unfair punishment for minor errors.”
He said the Senate has made it a priority to pass these bills again and give the governor a second chance to sign them.
At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Chairman John Flanagan, R-Long Island, said the Senate is planning to push the issue. He added that there is no agreement with the governor that he will not veto the package of legislation again.
Farley was optimistic these funds will be contained in the governor’s budget, which will be made available Jan. 17.
“We’re going to have a negotiated budget, and this will be part of it,” Farley said. “[The] lower budget deficit will make it more likely to be included in the budget.”
Philip Aydinian, a spokesman for Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, who introduced the companion Assembly legislation to Farley’s Senate bill the last time around, said Amedore would be willing to introduce the bill again.
A spokesman for the state’s Division of the Budget would not comment on whether there are plans to include money in the budget to make Schenectady and other school districts whole. But Schenectady is preparing for the worst.
“We are expecting that the $903,000 will come out in June,” Corona said. She added, “There is no district that needs the money more than us.”