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Forgiveness Of A Panama Fine Awaits Cuomo

Legislation has again been approved to forgive an outstanding fine against the Panama Central School District. The forgiveness of $1.9 million now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature after passing the state Senate and Assembly.

“Penalizing the school district for an administrative error that occurred years ago makes no sense,” said Sen. Patrick Gallivan on Wednesday.

“Forcing the district to pay such a significant penalty will only hurt students, faculty and local taxpayers.”

Gallivan worked with State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, to pass the bill in both chambers. The pair coordinated the effort to resolve the penalty after former State Sen. Cathy Young resigned.

The school district has owed as much as $4.9 million — the result of mismanaged paperwork regarding cost reports from a district capital project in 2005. Law dictated that schools who were given a state grant for capital projects file a cost report after completion.

A previous administration reportedly 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.

With previous support from Young and Goodell, the state has been routinely setting aside money each fiscal year to subsidize the penalty. Panama received $500,000 last year.

In 2017, a similar piece of legislation forgiving some of the debt was approved by both houses. However, the bill was vetoed by Cuomo.

It’s unclear if Cuomo will do the same this year.

When the last $500,000 supplement was approved, Bert Lictus, Panama superintendent, said “It’s a good thing for Panama. I can’t say enough about how much we appreciate (Young and Goodell’s) work on our behalf.”

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