West Deptford School District took another step closer this week to resolving a long and drawn out dispute with the Archway School.
At Monday night's school board meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution to accept a cash settlement of $17,711.54 from Archway to end an outstanding case of overcharged tuition from the 1990s.
An audit by the New Jersey Department of Education in the late 1990s found that Archway had overcharged tuition to 86 different school districts in South Jersey, including West Deptford. Archway denied the findings of the audit, which found that the overcharges totaled approximately $2.5 million. According to a 1998 Philadelphia Inquirer article, the school districts had paid more than $25,000 per student to Archway for tuition, while the state audit found that the total should have been around $19,000.
Archway's settlement proposal will give 37 percent of the disputed amount back to West Deptford and the other school districts. The overcharge amount to West Deptford totaled $48,232.20.
“I imagine any settlement will be done in the next two months,” said school board President Christopher Strano. “We just had to decide tonight whether we're in or not.”
Administrators and the school board attorney recommended that the board pass the resolution to accept the settlement, with the aim of avoiding protracted litigation. They also feared the possibility of no payment should Archway lose a court case and go bankrupt.
The settlement is still far from official. According to the resolution, all 86 school districts involved must agree to the settlement to allow everything to move forward. Each district will receive the same 37 percent according to the settlement.
“It's along the lines of a class-action lawsuit,” said Strano. “They're either going to settle with everybody and they'll go on with their business or somebody's going to hold out.”
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