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Funding formula mistake, city charter schools owe millions to Buffalo School District

Funding formula mistake, city charter schools owe millions to Buffalo School District
Posted at 12:30 PM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 18:06:40-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Imagine being told you must pay back money because of an 'over payment' mistake for more than a decade

That's what's happening for a number of Buffalo charter schools.

The Buffalo Public School District says due to a “formula” used to pay charter school funding, the [Buffalo Public Schools] schools were “invoiced at an incorrect rate” and charters were overpaid $6.83 million dollars

This has resulted in over payment that started in the 2007-2008 school year through the 2017-18 school year.

The payment mistake was uncovered in an audit recently released by the New York State Comptroller’s office revealing the district over paid $1 million to charter school in the 2017-18 school year.

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Inside a hallway at the Tapestry Charter School, Great Arrow, Buffalo.

The Buffalo Board of Education gave the district approval to begin deducting the over payments from disbursements to charter schools.

The charters were notified in a letter from the city school district on February 14th.

The Buffalo district pays disbursements to charter schools every two months.

"These are funds that should of gone too students that remained in the Buffalo Public Schools," said Geoffrey Pritchard, chief financial officer, Buffalo Pubic School District.

Pritchard described the mistake much like a bank overpaying a customer.

"You hear the story of people that get $100,000 deposited into their bank account, then they go and quickly spend it, but obviously the banks going to come and ask for that money, so this was a mistake and we have to fix it," Pritchard explained.

According to the district, the deductions for over payments would be over the next four payments that start this month.

The pay-back amount varies among area charter schools.

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Inside a Tapestry Charter School classroom, Great Arrow, Buffalo.

Tapestry Charter School in Buffalo owes the most, more than $78,000 and Elmwood Village Charter School owing about $16,000.

"It's going to be devastating to our program, to our special ed program," stated Eric Klapper, executive director, Tapesty Charter. "We have to fight very, very hard and it’s unfortunate we’ve been put in this position."

Klapper says this is forcing the school to fight this legally.

"We feel that it’s a, at the very least, a very aggressive overreach of an illegal action," Klapper said.

Klapper said he is very worried about any loss to special education funding. Tapestry is a K-12 school. It is now it it's 19th year, has a large percentage of special ed students.

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Tapestry Charter School, Great Arrow, Buffalo.

7 Eyewitness News also reached out to Elwood Village, Charter School for Applied Technologies and Westminster Charter Schools for comment and are awaiting responses about how they will deal with this financial dilemma.

There are 19 charter schools located in the city district, serving more than 9,000 Buffalo students.