HFM-BOCES endorses $3.37M proposed budget

JOHNSTOWN — The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services Board of Education endorsed the $3.37 million proposed 2019-20 administrative budget on Jan. 31 that will go before component school districts for approval in April.

The proposed $3.37 million administrative budget represents a 4.36 percent increase over the current year’s $3.23 million budget.

HFM BOCES Interim Superintendent Anita Murphy presented the proposed budget to the board on Thursday, explaining that BOCES budgets are broken up into two pieces; an administrative budget that is fixed by the board for approval by component school districts and a program budget that is based each year on the needs of component districts surrounding student enrollment, funding opportunities and other factors.

BOCES program budgets are set later in the year after component school districts approve their individual budgets in May.

“How a BOCES budget works is very different than how a school budget works,” Murphy said. “Program budgets go up and down all the time, because they are based on what component districts ask us to provide to them.”

Murphy noted that the proposed $3.37 million administrative budget that includes salaries for members of the central administration and business office and the cost of benefits makes up a small portion of the annual budget for HFM BOCES that she estimated at approximately $50 million.

“It’s actually the smallest part of our budget except for the thing that has to be in the administrative budget, our retiree health insurance costs,” Murphy said. “That’s almost exactly half of our administrative budget.”

The proposed budget includes $1.65 million for retiree health and dental insurance, an increase of 4.4 percent over the $1.58 million included in the current year’s budget. Retiree benefits account for 49 percent of the total 2019-20 administrative budget.

“Retiree health costs are going to be an issue in all BOCES administrative budgets, but this BOCES has done a really good job in the future to ensure those costs come down, because of contracts they have negotiated with unions,” Murphy said.

Murphy added that HFM controls increases to retirement costs by approaching staffing additions with careful consideration.

“We are very, very cognizant that our costs as an organization are paid for by our component districts and we are very thoughtful about what we do at BOCES,” Murphy said. “When somebody says I want to hire somebody for XYZ grant, the way we hire that person is important, because we are bound to those employees. When we hire somebody they are expecting something when they retire that we are going to give them, because we should and we have a contract with them that we will.”

The administrative budget includes the addition of one new full-time staff member, a director of human resources whose introduction will establish an HR department at HFM BOCES.

“HFM BOCES never had an HR department, so we’re building one slowly with a director of HR. Most of the increase in the administrative budget was because that one person was added,” Murphy said. “But when you have a $50 million organization that has a lot of employees you need HR. When you have certifications for staff and civil service, you really need someone who deals with all of those things to make sure you have it right.”

The HFM BOCES Board of Education approved the $3.37 million proposed 2019-20 administrative budget Jan. 31. The budget will be reviewed with school boards from component districts at the annual meeting on April 3 and voted on by component school board members on April 17.

HFM BOCES Board of Education President Joanne Freeman expressed her support for the budget, saying the organization sought to balance costs with student needs.

“I think it’s as fair as we possibly can be with our component districts,” Freeman said. “I’d like to see it where we wouldn’t have to increase the budget above two percent, but with the increases all the way around to bring quality education and services to our students, we have to be fair to everybody.”

The portion of the administrative budget that each district pays is determined through the state’s calculation of Resident Weighted Average Daily Attendance based on the proportion that the district’s students represent among all students in the HFM region. Districts are eligible to receive state aid to support BOCES funding contributions.

By Patricia Older

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