GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The Valhalla Board of Education has voted to appeal a November state Supreme Court ruling ordering the school district to repay $1.8 million to the Town of Greenburgh.
State Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Colabella ruled it was illegal for Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner to have signed an agreement with the Valhalla School District in March 2004 that would give the district up to $650,000 annually over 10 years in exchange for allowing a homeless shelter in the town.
In a 6-0 vote on Jan. 10, the board of education voted to appoint the law firm of Keane & Beane, P.C. as special counsel for the purpose of assisting the district with regard to an evaluation and assessment of the district's options relative to the court decision.
Feiner, who has publicly defended the agreement, said he was not surprised by the board of education's actions.
"Everyone assumed that they would appeal the ruling," he said.
Eight years ago, several members of the Greenburgh community rallied against the agreement, expressing dissatisfaction with Feiner's reasoning for giving the money to Valhalla schools. Complaints were made to the New York State comptroller and the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
Bob Bernstein, a former president of the Edgemont Community Council who acted as one of the intervenors in court for Greenburgh, said he feels the school district will be unsuccessful with its appeal.
"I believe the decision was correctly decided and is well supported by the law and the undisputed facts," he said. "I am therefore confident that the court decision will be affirmed on appeal no matter whom the school district chooses as its counsel."
Terry Williams, chairperson of the Greenburgh 7 Board of Education, urged town officials not to compromise on the $1.8 million owed to Greenburgh.
"This situation should have been avoided as the New York State Constitution is perfectly clear on the illegality of these types of transactions. Let's not compound the problem by accepting anything less than the full amount, plus legal fees and any applicable interest," Williams said.
"I feel for the taxpayers of the Valhalla School District, particularly in these fiscally constrained times," he added. "They're now throwing good money after bad, as I am confident the ruling will be upheld."