(3 PM) Superintendent: ‘Good Thing For Panama’ After Funding Announcement

Members of the Panama School Board discuss the district’s 2018-19 budget at a meeting in March. P-J file photo by Jordan Patterson

The Panama Central School District was aided once again by Sen. Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell with $500,000 being secured to help repay a penalty the state Education Department enforced on the school district in 2012.

“It’s a good thing for Panama,” said Bert Lictus, superintendent of Panama. “I can’t say enough about how much we appreciate (Young and Goodell’s) work on our behalf.”

The penalty was a result of mismanaged paperwork regarding cost reports after a capital project during a previous administration in 2005. The law then dictated that schools who were given a state grant for capital projects file a cost report after completion. A previous administration failed to file the report by the given deadline and New York state placed a penalty of about $4.9 million on Panama years later.

“It’s decades old,” Lictus said.

With support by Young and Goodell, the state has been routinely setting aside money each fiscal year to subsidize the penalty. Since 2012, money has been allocated each year to chip away at the original penalty. The 2018-19 school year will follow that trend as Panama will receive another installment of $500,000. The district will continue to owe $1.9 million.

“This funding ensures that Panama Central School District taxpayers do not have to shoulder an undue tax burden caused by circumstances beyond their control,” Senator Young said. “The district faced severe financial hardship which was caused by simple human error.

In October, Young passed legislation that would forgive the entirety of $2.4 million owed at the time last year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo later vetoed the bill.

In Young’s news release announcing the most recent funding, she cited the penalty as reason Panama and Clymer Central School failed to merger districts. During the merger study between the two districts, the remaining money Panama owed was a frequent concern of numerous Clymer residents.

“I think it’s ridiculous the governor can’t see his way to assist us,” Lictus said.

Young, with the support of Goodell, has again passed legislation to forgive the now remaining balance of $1.9 million. The new legislation is awaiting Cuomo’s signature.

See tomorrow’s edition of The Post-Journal for complete coverage.