D’Urso, Phillips move to correct error that could cost Port schools $800K

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Assemblyman D'Urso in chamber

A clerical error made by a staff member could cost the Port Washington School District $800,000 in transportation funding in the state.

But that mistake can be wiped away with the stroke of the governor’s pen.

Bill A10824, which was sponsored by state Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso, and Bill S8764, which was sponsored by state Sen. Elaine Phillips, would restore the state funding for bus transportation services for students in the district.

“Access to transportation represents an integral building block in the smooth operation of our school districts,” D’Urso said in a statement. “When I heard the school district had a problem, I immediately worked to rectify the issue by sponsoring a bill and urging my colleagues to support it.”

The text for both D’Urso’s and Phillips’ bills are the same, with both justifying the state restoring the funding because it would put an “undue burden” on Port residents.

The text states that if the school district does not receive the transportation aid from the state, it will have to either cut educational programs or raise real property taxes dramatically.

The clerical error was made during the 2016-17 school year, according to the text of the bill.

But the public was not made aware of the issue until it was announced by the Port Washington School District’s Board of Education in October of last year.

At the time, the board declined to give additional details about the error, such as who made the mistake, what area of the transportation budget it affected and how much it would cost the district.

This week, the board’s president, Karen Sloan, said the problem was caused by a district staff member missing the deadline to file documents with the state.

“I understand why it is bad [to miss the deadline] and that people need to be held accountable, but it would be a shame if that was taken out on the students,” Sloan said.

Sloan called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to overlook the error and restore the transportation funding.

I’m very hopeful that the governor will see fit to approve this because we are in dire need of all the funds we can get,” she said. “It was a human error, and to lose the money that the state has already given us is too horrible for me to think about.”

In May, residents approved a $155 million budget for the district in the 2017-18 school year.

D’Urso said he was unsure when Cuomo would sign the legislation, but said that he would be in touch with his fellow Democrat throughout the week.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at ltorrance@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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