Gov. Cuomo vetoes bill that would have saved Chester school district from multi-million dollar fine
Superintendent denies late filing of paperwork: State Senator James Skoufis calls veto ‘particularly heartless'
BY ERIKA NORTON
CHESTER — Before 2018 came to an end, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation that would have spared the Chester Union Free School District a $3.3 million state fine.
The fine is for allegedly not filing all of the paperwork related to the construction of the Chester Academy on time.
According to Superintendent Sean Michel, the district was hit with the fine in August 2017, nearly five years after the required paperwork was submitted to the New York State Department of Education (SED) to finalize state aid payments for the project.
Michel vehemently denies that the paperwork was filed late.
“We are steadfast in our belief that the proper paperwork was filed on time, and we are evaluating all our options to protect our children and taxpayers from the harm this fine would impose on the families of our district,” Michel said. “In the meantime, we will continue to pursue our stated district goals, including supporting and promoting college and career readiness via student success, achievement, innovation and creativity.”
With Cuomo’s veto, taxpayers will have to foot the bill. But to date, the district has not been assessed a penalty, Michel said. The district currently has a pending Article 78 action against the Education Department in Albany Supreme Court disputing the fine.
Cuomo also vetoed a bill that would have provided amnesty for a $13 million fine levied against the Newburgh Enlarged City School District. The fine is for a missing form related to a 2004 capital project at Newburgh Free Academy.
State Senator James Skoufis (D-39), who assumed office on Jan. 1, sponsored both bills while in the State Assembly. He called the penalties “outrageously disproportionate” and said that Cuomo approved identical amnesty legislation for the North Syracuse and Henry Hudson school districts earlier this year, establishing an “inexplicable double standard.”
“With his two vetoes, Governor Cuomo has demonstrated disturbing disregard for Orange County’s students, including the over one-third of children in the City of Newburgh who live in poverty,” Skoufis said in a statement. “He frequently accuses the President of lacking compassion yet Governor Cuomo’s actions are nothing short of cold and calculating, particularly heartless during the holiday season.”
Skoufis said that in the new year, he will be urging the senate to quickly re-pass the two bills in and take any and all actions necessary to see them enacted.
“Doing so would send an unmistakable message,” Skoufis said. "At least the legislature is looking out for our students.”