Assemblymember Barrett’s Legislation Removes Penalty, Helps Spackenkill Union Free School District

Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Dutchess/Columbia) announced that legislation she authored to forgive a penalty levied on the Spackenkill Union Free School District for filing a late final cost report passed the Assembly (A.4069).

“It’s simply not right to penalize our taxpayers and students for an administrative mistake that was out of their control,” Barrett said. “This penalty would cost the school district millions and would cost our students even more, from missing out on diverse class options to invaluable after-school programs. By removing this excessive penalty, my legislation protects our schools and students from a burden they shouldn’t have to bear.”

The Spackenkill Union Free School District received a $9.6 million penalty for allegedly failing to file a final building cost report before the Dec. 31, 2012, deadline by the State Education Department (SED), despite the fact that the school’s Expanding Our Children’s Education and Learning (EXCEL) grant money was not disbursed until March 2015. The current superintendent and business manager were not made aware of the late filing until February 2018 and did not learn of the penalty until calling SED. The penalty exceeds the total amount of state aid received by the district and would force them to pay back millions of dollars solely for an administrative error.

Barrett’s legislation would forgive the remaining amount of the penalty to help preserve the high quality of educational programs the district provides. She has been tirelessly working to resolve this issue since May 2018 and has made it a priority to finally lift this unfair burden off the school district, which is an NYSED-nominated Blue Ribbon school.

Barrett has worked throughout her time in the Assembly to strengthen education in the Hudson Valley. Earlier this year, she helped pass a state budget that includes $8.5 million in funding for the Spackenkill Union Free School District.