BOCES proposal has 2% increase

JOHNSTOWN – The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Education Services Board of Education made no changes to the proposed administrative budget for 2013-14 that includes a 2 percent increase from the 2012-13 budget and large savings for the district in retiree health insurance.

The 2 percent increase will have to be paid by the districts that use BOCES services.

Michel said the percentage each district will pay is based on a formula set by the state that factors in each district’s size, student population and poverty rate.

Michel said because of the new merged Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville district, most districts will actually see a decrease in the amount they pay. He said the merged district will have to pay more for 2013-14 – about $75,634 compared to $40,156 – since it will be one larger district with a bigger student body.

Michel said the district was able to keep the increase on the lower end because it was able to change the health insurance plan of retirees to allow a total savings of just under $200,000.

“One of the big things we were able to save an enormous amount of money on was health care because we were able to renegotiate our health care system with all of our bargaining units,” Michel said. “That is something we are pretty proud of.”

The BOCES district paid about $1.17 million for the health services provided to retirees this year and is projected to pay $973,615 for next year.

According to meeting documents, the administrative budget for 2013-14 with retiree health will be $2,469,611 and without retiree health included will be $1,495,996.

The difference between the adjusted 2012-13 budget and the proposed administrative budget for 2013-14 is a $29,291 increase.

The budget for central administration increased by 1.96 percent last year. Michel said BOCES had made a commitment to keep the increase below 2 percent to make it easier for the districts to remain under the tax cap.

“We promised the districts when I first got here and the tax cap was put on that we would try to stay within 2 percent and we have so far,” Michel said.

The local BOCES serves school districts in Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties. Fifteen school districts use BOCES to offer more classroom programs and student services.

School boards within the BOCES district will vote on the administrative budget and the candidates for the two open seats on the BOCES board at the end of April.

The budget vote requires majority approval from the 15 districts.

Michel said the districts will be presented with the administrative budget on April 10.

The individual school boards can nominate anyone to be on the BOCES board, but each of the districts gets one vote for the representative it would like to fill the vacant positions.

The current president of the HFM BOCES Board of Education, Robert Townsend, announced recently that after 15 years of service on the board he will not seek re-election this year.

The other seat on the BOCES board that is set to expire in June is the position held by Joanne Freeman.

Michel said Freeman, who resides in the Greater Johnstown School District, will run for re-election to the board this year.

Michel said BOCES just sent out the service requests to districts so it remains unclear at this time what exactly each district will need in terms of services from BOCES. The requests are supposed to be returned by April 5 so BOCES can calibrate the entire budget for the 2013-14 year.

Each district pays BOCES for the services that it provides and it is often different from one district to the next.

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