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Decision No. 15,547

Appeal of NIAGARA CHARTER SCHOOL from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Niagara Falls regarding financing.

Decision No. 15,547

(March 19, 2007)

Goldstein, Ackerhalt & Pletcher, LLP, attorneys for petitioner, Bruce A. Goldstein, Esq., of counsel

Angelo Massaro, Esq., attorney for respondent

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the City School District of the City of Niagara Falls (“respondent”) to make payments to petitioner based upon petitioner’s estimated, not actual, enrollment figures.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner, a charter school located in the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District, began providing instruction to its students in the 2006-2007 school year. In its original application to operate a charter school, petitioner estimated that it would enroll 240 students (later raised to 264 students) when it opened.  According to the application, “approximately two-thirds,” or an estimated 155 students, were expected to be residents of respondent’s district.

According to petitioner, 264 students are currently enrolled at its school and 255 of them reside in respondent’s district.  On June 6 and August 1, 2006, petitioner billed respondent based upon the actual number of students from respondent’s district who were enrolled at petitioner’s school.[1]  Respondent refused to pay the full amount and instead tendered payment to petitioner based upon petitioner’s estimated enrollment.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on August 30, 2006.

Petitioner alleges that respondent’s refusal to make payments based on actual enrollment figures jeopardizes its ability to operate a charter school and contravenes the purpose and intent of both its charter and the New York State Charter Schools Act (“Act”).  In addition, petitioner asserts that respondent’s actions are “grossly unfair and destructive” and that its interpretation of its statutory obligations will lead to “nonsensical scenarios.”  Petitioner, therefore, claims that respondent’s actions are arbitrary and capricious and asks, among other things, that I declare respondent’s actions to be improper and order it to make both outstanding and future payments to petitioner based on the charter school’s actual enrollment figures.  Petitioner also requests that moneys due it be withheld from respondent’s State aid payments in September and November 2006 and be remitted to petitioner.

Respondent argues that since petitioner is in its first year of operation, Education Law §2856 obligates respondent to make payments to petitioner based only upon projected enrollment.  Therefore, respondent denies that it acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and claims that it has complied with the requirements of the law.  In addition, respondent argues that petitioner’s appeal should be dismissed on a number of procedural grounds.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot.  The Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of B.K. and R.K., 44 Ed Dept Rep 195, Decision No. 15,146; Appeal of V.L., 44 id. 160, Decision No. 15,132; Appeal of Garvin, 44 id. 30, Decision No. 15,087). Subsequent to commencing this appeal, petitioner amended its charter to reflect an estimated enrollment of 255 students from respondent’s district.  Education Law §2856(2) and §119.1(e)(2) of the Commissioner’s regulations provide for a State aid deduction process whereby outstanding amounts owed to a charter school are paid from a school district’s State aid proceeds.  Here, petitioner has applied for the outstanding amounts that it seeks herein through the State aid deduction process.  Such amounts have been approved and petitioner will thus receive the requested relief.  Therefore, the matter is moot.



[1] Petitioner’s June 6, 2006 invoice was for 231 students and its August 1, 2006 invoice was for 255 students.