Hayden School Board hears BOCES report | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden School Board hears BOCES report

No resolution about how to address increased assessments

Jack Weinstein

— There still aren’t answers about how the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services got into its current financial situation or how it’s going to extricate itself from that, Hayden School Board members were told Wednesday night.

Board President Brian Hoza, who also is the president of the BOCES board, updated board members about a possible resolution to BOCES overspending nearly $317,000 last year and increasing assessments of its six member districts for this year’s services by more than $481,000 since they were first reported in May.

Nor is there resolution about when the member districts will receive the more than $777,000 in federal funding for title programs that is supposed to flow through BOCES to them. BOCES has been using that funding to pay for its operating expenses. Hayden’s share of it is nearly $62,000.

Hoza said there have been problems with the three most recent BOCES budgets, going back to 2007-08. He said the BOCES board began asking questions 18 months ago when BOCES first delayed providing that federal funding for title programs. Not until three or four months ago did Hayden receive its share of the 2007-08 title funding, Hoza said.

He added that BOCES had $220,000 in reserves just two years ago.

The BOCES board met earlier this month. Hoza said a resolution hasn’t been reached, though district superintendents and BOCES Executive Director Jane Toothaker have met three times since September, when the overspending and increased assessments were revealed.

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BOCES initially asked the districts to pay for what it overspent last year and for this year’s increased assessments. Hoza said Toothaker was pursuing using federal stimulus funding to make up part of last year’s balance. He said the districts have asked Toothaker to cut her budget this year in lieu of the district’s paying the increased assessments.

“BOCES needs to realize that districts like ours don’t have the money to fund that,” Hoza said.

If BOCES uses stimulus funding to cover its overspending, Hoza said the districts wouldn’t be getting that infusion of funding to provide services for students.

“That kind of hits us in the gut with where those funds would go,” he said.

Hoza said a team from the Colorado Department of Education conducted an audit of BOCES financials Friday. He said the BOCES board was still waiting for a response after that meeting about the education agency’s findings and suggestions for possible action or recommendations.

Hoza said he was eager to hear the Education Department’s perspective.

Board member Kurt Frentress asked why, if BOCES submitted annual audits to the state, its financial struggles weren’t discovered before. Hoza said that’s what they were trying to figure out. He said in previous years, BOCES said its districts weren’t providing accurate information to it to balance its books. He said BOCES also said the districts weren’t paying it for services on time, which wasn’t accurate.

Board member Vance Fulton asked if the BOCES board had discussed whether any criminal activity had taken place. Hoza said he couldn’t comment because the board was still unclear about how the situation arose.

“I don’t at this point have that impression, but there’s a lot of ambiguity about why we’re in this position,” he said.

Hoza said a lot of dramatic changes needed to happen for BOCES to resolve its financial quandary, but he said they’d likely impact staff and students. He said the board would do its best to avoid that. Hoza said he hoped some decisions were reached about how to address the overspending and increased assessments when the BOCES board meets next Wednesday in Steamboat Springs.

Other business

At the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent Greg Rockhold presented board member Patty Bruchez a plant and thanked her for her eight years of service on the School Board – especially her financial wisdom. Bruchez, who was up for re-election this year, decided not to run.

After the presentation of the plant, each board member, the district’s three principals and district staff members who attended the meeting gave a teary-eyed Bruchez hugs.

“I’ve been associated with the school district in some way or another for 31 years,” she said after the meeting.

Bruchez started with the district as a bookkeeper in 1978. She was a board member from 1985 to 1987, when she was the business manager for the Steamboat Springs School District. She returned to Hayden in 1987, where she was business manager until her retirement in 1998. She ran for the School Board in 2001 and was re-elected in 2005.

“It’s kind of tough to walk away,” she said. “I’ve had two kids in the system. The associations I’ve had with the people are beyond words.”

Board President Brian Hoza said Bruchez would be missed.

“Patty has made an amazing, amazing contribution to the district,” he said.