We approved a resolution late Wednesday night that ensures children in the Valhalla School District would not be deprived of enhanced educational programs they were counting on this academic year. The resolution authorized the school district to spend $439,000 which had previously been approved by the Town, but was not spent. We felt it would be fair and legal to allow the school district to use the money it already had. We will always work cooperatively with people to find legal solutions to the many difficult challenges we face together as a town.
School district officials maintain they relied on being able to use the $439,000 in its possession and would have proposed a different school budget to the voters of their district in the spring had it known those funds would not be usable.
The Valhalla Union Free School District serves parts of Mt. Pleasant, North Castle, and Greenburgh. The 10-year education grant between the town and the school district provides for the Town of Greenburgh to make annual payments of up to $650,000 to the Valhalla Union Free School District for education program enhancements that benefit residents of the entire school district. Questions have been raised about the legality of the grant. In response to concerns raised, the New York State Comptroller’s office is conducting an audit of the grant and a report is expected to be released soon. Our Town Attorney has also questioned the legality of the grant in a memo to the Town Board that is available to the public. At issue is whether the Town of Greenburgh can transfer town funds to a school district to solely benefit the residents of the school district (whose residents mostly reside outside the town), instead of using the money to benefit Greenburgh residents town-wide.
The resolution adopted states that before additional funds are transferred to the school district, the Town Board must be fully satisfied the grant complies with NYS law. The resolution approved by the Town Board is contingent on the school district releasing the town of any legal responsibility should anyone sue the Town of Greenburgh and a court determination that the money previously transferred to the school district should not have been transferred. The agreement also prevents the school district from using the authorization for the school district to use the $439,000 against the town in any future legal proceeding.
We approved this arrangement because we are dedicated to making sure school children would not suffer because of questions to the legality of the grant and assertions from the school district that it relied on the money it had already received in preparing this year’s school budget. We believe this is a reasonable and rational approach that protects the entire Town of Greenburgh on a long term basis.
Councilman Eddie Mae Barnes
Councilman Steve Bass
Councilwoman Diana Juettner
Councilman Francis Sheehan