BOCES to present deficit proposal at meeting today |

BOCES to present deficit proposal at meeting today

Jack Weinstein

— Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services leader Jane Toothaker will present board members tonight with a proposal for how the agency will overcome a $45,000 deficit from the 2008-09 school year.

The proposal represents another step in BOCES' efforts to alleviate it overspending nearly $317,000 during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009. BOCES is a regional, taxpayer-funded organization that coordinates and provides special education services for public school districts in Northwest Colorado. It has been mired in financial difficulties since the deficit spending was discovered last year.

Toothaker's proposal for erasing the deficit includes removing budget contingencies, reducing its special education materials budget and lowering unemployment insurance premiums.

Also tonight, BOCES board members will decide whether to approve the organization's 2008-09 final audit. It was due to the state auditor by Dec. 31, 2009, but the BOCES auditor requested an extension.

BOCES revealed to its board in September that the organization overspent its 2008-09 budget and needed to increase the cost of assessments for the 2009-10 school year by more than $481,000. Much of BOCES' funding comes from charging its member districts for the services it provides them.

BOCES applied for $273,000 in federal stimulus funding and sought $44,000 in additional payments from the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts to help make up for the overspending. It has since approved a 2009-10 budget that reduces the need for those additional assessments.

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At that time, BOCES also owed its six member districts their shares of $777,000 in federal title program funding. It had been using the funds for operating costs. That money has since been repaid, but the Color­ado Department of Education stripped BOCES of its ability to collect and distribute federal title funds this school year after determining BOCES violated the federal Cash Management Improvement Act.

Board members also will be presented tonight with "strategic actions" for BOCES' continued improvements — some of which have been implemented while others will occur this year. Toothaker said the strategic actions came from recommendations during previous board meetings.

They include 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 strategic planning with stakeholders.

The intent of the strategic actions is to prevent BOCES from overspending its budget and mismanaging federal funds.

"Of course, we never want to see those financial problems reoccur," Toothaker said. "We're doing everything in our power to make sure BOCES is solvent for years to come."

That includes the 2010-11 budget process, which will be discussed tonight. BOCES is meeting with its staff next week to get input, Toothaker said. She said BOCES is meeting and will continue to meet with its districts about special education programs and services, some of which the districts may choose to provide on their own next school year.

Steamboat Springs has indicated it will provide some programs beginning next year that it received from BOCES in the past.

Toothaker said BOCES will likely have to make cuts next year and that BOCES projects a fund balance of $17,000 for the end of the 2010 fiscal year.

If you go

What: BOCES board meeting

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: West Grand School District offices, 304 N. 12th St. in Kremmling

Agenda highlights

■ 6 p.m. Call to order

■ 6:20 p.m. Public comment

■ 6:30 p.m. Discussion items, including “strategic actions,” policy updates, 2010-11 budget process

■ 7:30 p.m. Action items, including final audit presentation, election of BOCES board officers and budget updates

■ 8:30 p.m. Executive session to discuss personnel matters regarding BOCES Executive Director Jane Toothaker, to discuss a performance improvement plan and contract adjustments for Toothaker

■ 9:30 p.m. Adjourn