Goodell, Young Fight For Panama Residents

Last week, The Post-Journal wrote in this space that the state Education Department should rescind the rest of a fine levied against the Panama Central School District.

Kudos to state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, and state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, for proposing legislation in the state Legislature that would do just that.

In 2005, the Panama Central School District completed a small maintenance project that was closed out. In 2009, Panama Central School District verified that the project was complete as shown on the state website. Panama then started a new project in 2008. In 2012, school officials reviewed the state’s website to find they had an “open” project with a substantial completion certificate filed on August 28, 2002, and December 12, 2005. That information wasn’t available to school officials when they were closing out their 2005 building project, meaning the school neglected to file a Final Cost Report with the Office of Facility Planning of the State Education Department (SED) within the established time frame. The district was assessed a $4.9 million penalty as a result of a late final cost report from a 2005 capital project.

Young and Goodell are proposing legislation that would legalize, validate, ratify and confirm the district’s actions regardless of their failure to timely file the final building cost reports. Most important, the legislation would rescind the $2.9 million remaining on the fine.

Clymer residents discussing a possible merger with Panama have asked about how the fine would affect them. It is important to remove the fine from the merger discussions. And, if merger discussions fail, it is simply wrong for Panama’s current students to be left holding the bag for a paperwork error that happened when the Class of 2017 was in kindergarten. The legislation was approved by the state Senate on Wednesday, but was not scheduled for a floor vote in the Assembly despite near-unanimous approval in the chamber’s Education, Rules and Ways and Means committees. It should be taken up when the legislature comes back into session.