Tucked into the state education budget is a provision that will allow the Schenectady City School District to recoup about $3.2 million.
The money represents about 75 percent of an approximately $4 million transportation contract the district advertised in 2003, but was invalidated by the state because of an error in the legal notice for the contract.
The contract was funded by the state, but it has recouped the money over the last two years from the district.
At the urging of state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, language was added to the budget that will allow the district to get that money back by demonstrating to the state Department of Education that the filing error was “inadvertent and minor.”
“It was a terrible thing what happened to the Schenectady City School District, which desperately needs the money,” Farley said.
He added that he is cautiously optimistic that the district will receive money, saying, “I have gotten positive vibes from the state Department of Education.”
In the district’s budget for last year, it had $2.9 million deducted from its transportation funding and it had $903,000 deducted this year, although it had initially anticipated a $1.3 million deduction.
The restoration of the contract will cover the years starting in 2004.
District Superintendent John Yagielski described the provision in the budget as potentially good news. “The question is how and when it will be paid,” he said.
Yagielski is hoping the money will be paid out this year so he can apply it to the $7 million budget deficit the district is facing for the upcoming fiscal year. “We need the money right away,” he said. “This is a year when we could really use the money.”
He said he looks forward to making the case for his district to the Department of Education.
Farley and Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, have repeatedly introduced legislation to prevent the district from being penalized for their initial mistake, but then-Gov. David Paterson and later Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed the legislation.
Peter Edman, a spokesman for Farley, said there was renewed hope for this effort when Cuomo’s proposed budget included a provision to pay for construction projects school districts entered into improperly. The governor’s office had left out transportation contracts because it felt there was a distinction, but the Senate included these contracts in its version of the budget and they stayed in.
The education, labor and family assistance budget bill that includes this provision is expected to be signed into law today.