FORT COVINGTON - An $86,419.57 payment to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services for Salmon Rivers 2012-13 special education preschool program was tabled by the school board on Monday until at least February, pending the receipt of further information on the debt from BOCES District Superintendent Stephen Shafer.
BOCES got the 2012-13 finance numbers on the program in late October, only to discover it was running at an enormous and unexpected deficit of $223,803 for the program that serves Malone, Brushton-Moira, Saint Regis Falls and Salmon River.
The breakdown for the individual school districts was $93,067 in Malone, $86,419 in Salmon River, $22,159 in Brushton-Moira and $22,158 in Saint Regis Falls. The costs were completely unbudgeted and forced students in the Salmon River classroom to consolidate with Brushton-Moira so schools could avoid a repeat deficit year.
The decision, made by Mr. Shafer, Malone Superintendent Jerry Griffin, Brushton-Moira and Saint Regis Superintendent Donna Andrč and SRC Superintendent Jane Collins, blindsided parents depending on the SRC program and caused controversy in the community.
Now BOCES is trying to collect reimbursement for those 2012-13 deficits, and the decision came before the board because Ms. Collins said she was uncomfortable paying the bill without board approval. The boards reaction to the figure quickly explained her unease - complete silence and inaction from the entire school board when she sought a motion to approve paying the bill.
When board member Robert Durant tried to clarify why Franklin County wasnt footing the bill, Ms. Collins responded that by law the county pays a portion of the cost, but BOCES also seeks reimbursement from the state.
So if we dont pay BOCES, BOCES will go after the state for money? asked Emily Lauzon, who was recently returned to the board.
Yes, and no, according to officials.
Mr. Shafer said the program behind reimbursing BOCES for providing the preschool service is simply arcane. At the beginning of each fiscal year, New York state provides prospective reimbursement rates per student per day. BOCES then runs the classes based on that rate and turns in a final cost report later.
In all his years at BOCES, Mr. Shafer said he cannot remember a single instance when the state decided to provide more money than originally expected; mostly, as in this case, they come back with less.
The participating school districts are required to make up any shortfalls left after the county and state payments.
Besides, according to Mr. Shafer it takes months, sometimes years, for the state to approve the report and then provide the actual reimbursement. This makes it unlikely that any new information, or a better situation, will be available in February.