$8M Bond to Kiryas Joel School for “Secular Purposes” Returned by Parents

An $8 million bond awarded to a Kiryas Joel area school last summer has been paid back in full after parents found out that the funds had been awarded exclusively for secular purposes, according to Voz Is Neais News.

According to the Times Herald Record, the loan was issued in July 2017 to Congregation Bnai Yoel, which serves families who have not quite fit in with Kiryas Joel’s main community. These people want to pray at their own synagogues and 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, according to VIN News.

The loan was meant to be used to “lower debt service and lower annual operating costs” on top of financing 20 new unspecified jobs, according to VIN News.

Immediately after being issued, the bond’s legitimacy came into question because it 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,” VIN News reports.

The statement nudged parents in the school to place 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, according to VIN News.

After that ordeal, 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, according to VIN News.

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, VIN News reports.

“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 could cost the school an extra $1 million in costs over its lifetime.

Tensions previously were there 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, according to VIN News, adding that 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.

By: Linda Farley

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