Monroe, NY – An $8 million bond awarded to a Kiryas Joel area school last summer has been paid back in full after horrified parents discovered that the funds had been awarded exclusively for secular purposes.
According to the Times Herald Record, the loan was issued in July 2017 to Congregation Bnai Yoel, which serves families who have long been at odds with Kiryas Joel’s main community, choosing instead to pray at their own synagogues and to send their children to separate schools.
On its application to the Orange County Funding Corp for the tax free loan filed in March 2017, Bnai Yoel said that the school served 2,000 children and that the funds would be used to buy two buildings that were currently being rented.
The loan was also intended to be used to “lower debt service and lower annual operating costs” in addition to financing twenty new unspecified jobs.
Immediately after its issuance, discussion swirled questioning the legitimacy of the bond, which could not be used for religious activities.
Addressing those concerns, the funding agency’s chief operating officer and executive vice president announced that lawyers had determined that the bond was to be used only by parts of the schools “that relate to secular education and other secular school-related activities.”
That statement prompted parents in the school to take out an advertisement in the Times Herald Record publicly rejecting both the bond and the idea that there was any part of the school that could be considered secular.
Following that outcry, Bnai Yoel cancelled the bond, taking out a second loan last December from the Bank of Princeton to repay the amount in full, forfeiting the original loan’s tax exempt status in the process.
An unidentified Bnai Yoel parent who spoke to the media days ago on condition of anonymity said that the secular requirement of the loan would have prompted many to remove their children from the school.
“It’s a terrible violation against the Torah,” said the father. “It’s like you break the bond between you and G-d.”
The new loan is expected to cost the school an additional $1 million in costs over its lifetime.
Tensions have existed between Congregation Bnai Yoel and the Village of Kiryas Joel since the formation of the Kiryas Joel School District to educate special needs children nearly 30 years ago, with members of the Bnai Yoel group opposed to the use of government money to fund the district.
As previously reported on VIN News, a lengthy legal battle ensued more than a decade ago when a Bnai Yoel family sued the Kiryas Joel School District, demanding that the district pay for hundreds of thousands of dollars in services to educate their severely impaired son at Bnai Yoel, instead of the Kiryas Joel school system.
The case, which was heard by the New York State Department of Education, was resolved in 2008 with a decision to deny the family’s request because it was not in the best educational interests of the child.