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Decision No. 13,514

Appeal of the CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEW ROCHELLE from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York relating to reimbursement for the provision of health and welfare services.

Decision No. 13,514

(November 11, 1995)

McGuire, Kehl & Nealon, Esqs., attorneys for petitioner, Terri E. Simon, Esq., of counsel

Hon. Paul A. Crotty, Corporation Counsel, attorney for respondent, David L. Lock, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner City School District of the City of New Rochelle ("petitioner") appeals respondent's refusal to reimburse petitioner for providing health and welfare services to alleged residents of respondent's district who attended private schools in petitioner's district during the 1993-94 school year. The appeal must be sustained in part.

In March 1994, petitioner submitted an invoice to respondent City School District of the City of New York ("respondent"), pursuant to Education Law '912, for reimbursement of health and welfare costs incurred on behalf of 560 students who allegedly resided in respondent's district, but attended nonpublic schools in petitioner's district during the 1993-94 school year. Petitioner calculated the per student cost of such services at $450.00.

In support of its invoice, petitioner submitted to respondent a list of the students' names and addresses confirmed by the principals of the nonpublic schools in petitioner's district. In addition, petitioner submitted for each student a parental affirmation of residence form. Each form contained the student's name, address and school of attendance. Most of the forms were signed by the student's parent. Some of the forms, however, were either unsigned or signed by a nonpublic school official.

On or about August 31, 1994, respondent reimbursed petitioner $180,900.00 for 402 students at the per student cost of $450.00. Respondent refused to reimburse petitioner for the remaining 158 students, maintaining that the parental affirmation forms for them were either missing or inadequate.

Petitioner commenced this appeal on September 28, 1994 and demanded $71,000.00, plus interest, as reimbursement for the remaining 158 students at the per student cost of $450.00. Thereafter, petitioner provided respondent with additional documentation for two students and respondent reimbursed petitioner for those students. In addition, after respondent served its answer in this appeal, petitioner provided respondent with information concerning 74 other students. Although respondent appears to have accepted this information, it is not apparent from the record whether respondent has reimbursed petitioner for those 74 students.

Petitioner maintains that it has provided adequate documentation to support its claim for reimbursement and is, therefore, entitled to payment for all 560 students. Petitioner further claims that respondent has failed to demonstrate that any of the 158 students for which it withheld payment did not reside in respondent's district.

Respondent contends that for the past ten years, it has required petitioner to provide an affirmation of residence form signed by the parent of each student residing in New York City who attends a nonpublic school in petitioner's district. Respondent contends that the completed parental affirmation forms represent a reliable verification of the residence of each student and that a simple list of students' names and addresses is insufficient. Respondent maintains that it is not required to reimburse petitioner without a completed affirmation form for each student.

Pursuant to Education Law '912, petitioner is obligated to provide the same health and welfare services and facilities for nonresident students who attend nonpublic school in its district that it provides to resident students who attend public school in the district. Further, under '912, petitioner is entitled to charge respondent the cost of providing such services to residents of respondent's district. The proper charge to the district of origin for each student is the total cost of all health and welfare services divided by the total number of students, public and nonpublic (Appeal of the Bd. of Ed., Greenburgh CSD No. 7, 33 Ed Dept Rep 81; Matter of the Bd. of Ed., City School Dist. of the City of New Rochelle, 23 id. 355; Matter of the Bd. of Ed., Elmsford UFSD, 22 id. 151).

Section 912, however, does not address the type of documentation that is required for reimbursement. Instead, '912 calls for a written contract between the district of residence and the district of attendance:

Where children residing in one school district attend a school other than public located in another school district, the school authorities of the district of residence shall contract with the school authorities of the district where such nonpublic school is located, for the provision of such health and welfare services and facilities to such children by the school district where such nonpublic school is located, for a consideration to be agreed upon between the school authorities of such districts, subject to the approval of the qualified voters of the district of residence when required under the provisions of this chapter. Every such contract shall be in writing and in the form prescribed by the commissioner of education, and before such contract is executed the same shall be submitted for approval to the superintendent of schools having jurisdiction over such district of residence and such contract shall not become effective until approved by such superintendent.

The Commissioner has repeatedly held that even if the technical requirements of '912 have not been complied with, neither board of education may be absolved of its statutory duty (Matter of the Bd. of Ed., City School Dist. of the City of New Rochelle, supra; Matter of the Bd. of Ed., City School Dist. of the City of Plattsburgh, 10 Ed Dept Rep 228; Matter of UFSD No. 10 of Southold, 1 Ed Dept Rep 197).

In this case, the parties did not have a written contract regarding reimbursement. It appears that in past years, respondent accepted parental affirmation forms as proof of residence. It is not clear, however, whether petitioner ever submitted or respondent ever paid claims based on parental affirmation forms which were either unsigned or signed by a school official.

In this case, however, I find that respondent is liable for the cost of services provided to students, even where the parental affirmation forms were incomplete. First, it is not disputed that all of the addresses listed are within respondent's district.

Second, respondent is estopped by its own actions from objecting to the deficiencies in the forms. While respondent refused to pay for those students whose forms were either unsigned or contained the signature of a school official instead of a parent, the record shows that respondent did pay for students whose forms were either undated, contained no school year ending date or listed an incorrect school year ending date. Respondent also accepted parent affirmation forms that were not subscribed before a school official. It appears, therefore, that respondent has selectively accepted incomplete parental affirmation forms. Under these facts, I find respondent's rejection of the forms which were either unsigned or signed by a school official to be unreasonable.

Third, respondent has provided no evidence that any of the students in question did not actually reside in its district during the period claimed. Nor has respondent offered any evidence to show that either the lists or forms which petitioner provided are, in fact, unreliable. In the absence of such evidence, the inaccuracies in the parental affirmation forms are of no practical consequence.

I must, however, deny petitioner's request for interest. Such relief is not available in proceedings pursuant to Education Law '310 (Appeal of the Bd. of Ed., Greenburgh CSD No. 7, supra).

Finally, I direct both parties to be more diligent in their compliance with '912 and procedures that implement it, to avoid future conflicts over reimbursement.

THE APPEAL IS SUSTAINED TO THE EXTENT INDICATED.

IT IS ORDERED that respondent forthwith pay to petitioner the sum of $71,000.00, less any amount which may have been paid prior to the date of this decision, in compensation for health services rendered to 158 residents of respondent's district during the 1993-94 school year.

END OF FILE