BOCES board OKs budget cuts |

BOCES board OKs budget cuts

Measure erases deficit left over from 2008-09 overspending

Jack Weinstein

— The BOCES board unanimously approved budget cuts Thursday to make up for a $44,632 deficit from the 2008-09 school year.

Board President Brian Hoza said approving the budget deficit plan presented by Executive Director Jane Toothaker allows the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Ser­v­ices to focus on this school year and begin planning for 2010-11.

BOCES provides state-mandated special education services to about 550 students in six Northwest Colorado school districts. Its financial troubles arose last fall when BOCES revealed to the board that it overspent its 2008-09 budget by nearly $317,000.

Despite the approval, there still were some tense moments at the BOCES board meeting Thursday evening at the West Grand School District offices in Kremmling.

Two items were added to the action agenda at the beginning of the meeting — a budget appropriation resolution, which requires the board president's signature for significant budget amendments; and the annual accreditation report. Toothaker said both, which are for the 2009-10 school year, should have been brought to the board earlier.

Board member Laura And­erson, who represents the Stea­mboat Springs School Dist­rict, reluctantly voted to approve the measures. She hesitated to OK items she was hearing about for the first time.

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"That's not how I operate," she said. "That's not how a professional board operates. We're supposed to be getting better. We're not."

Hoza clarified that the board wanted to be able to read such documents before the meetings.

After the meeting, Toothaker said the budget accreditation report didn't require board action, just Hoza's signature, but board members wanted to vote on it. She said having the board approve the budget appropriation resolution surfaced this week after the agenda was set.

Toothaker said she felt that neither could wait until the next board meeting in March. With meetings only every other month, she said when things came up, they had to be dealt with.

"We're implementing many procedures, but there are still some things we're working on," Toothaker said.

She also presented to board members "strategic actions" for BOCES' continued improvements. Some have been enacted, and others will occur this year.

They included changing the board meeting format, formation of a financial oversight committee, implementing the Education Department's recommendations, meeting with district leaders to discuss 2010-11 BOCES programs, communicating with staff about financial challenges, providing monthly financial updates to the six member district superintendents and re-establishing the strategic planning process with stakeholders.

The board discussed forming the financial oversight committee, which would consist of two board members, two superintendents and two district finance directors. The six-person committee would include a representative from each of BOCES' member districts.

Toothaker said she would like to get the group set soon to begin discussing the 2010-11 budget, which she'll first present to the board in March, with the final budget presentation in May.

Based on BOCES' special education pupil count decreasing from 683 students two years ago to 557 this school year, Toothaker told board members that next year's expenditures would have to be cut $500,000, to $4.3 million.

Also at Thursday's meeting, the board approved the final 2008-09 audit. It has been sent to the Colorado Department of Edu­cation for review. Toothaker said the For a video of the Science Explorers Workshop on Friday at Steamboat Spr­ings Middle School, visit would send BOCES a response that could include findings or corrective action that BOCES would have to implement.

Toothaker said she expects that response in the next couple of months.

Board members entered executive session at 9:45 p.m. to discuss a performance plan and contract adjustment for Toothaker. The board took no action, but Hoza said board members would continue to discuss the issues before making a decision that eventually would become public.

Until that time, Hoza said the board would continue to evaluate the operation of BOCES under Toothaker's leadership.

He said several steps were taken Thursday for the continued improvement of BOCES, including the strategic actions. Hoza said they will help define how BOCES needs to operate, but he said it would take time to work through.

"I hope the end result is strong, more efficient and better run than BOCES was before this process was made necessary," he said.