Advocacy Efforts

The BOCES network is a premier example of inter-municipal collaboration in New York state that works. Since almost 70 years ago, local school districts have been able to use BOCES to provide a wide range of educational programs and services through an organizational structure that is a model of cooperation. BOCES is able to leverage the strength of multiple school districts and provide a wide variety of services that, individually, school districts could not provide because the costs would be prohibitive.

With this in mind, the BOCES of NY State Education Consortium would like to underscore several important items that would assist BOCES in its mission:

Demand a resolution to the BOCES Capital Exemption from the Tax Levy Cap

In the spring of 2015, the Office of Taxation and Finance was directed to develop language to include BOCES under the same capital exemption from the Tax Levy Cap that school districts have. This language has yet to be developed. The failure to do this in a timely manner has unnecessarily cost school districts financial resources. In addition, the lack of resolution to this issue has directly jeopardized much-needed upgrades to BOCES facilities. These upgrades are needed to support cutting-edge Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs as well as to provide appropriate facilities for students that are unable to be served in a traditional public school.

Enhanced support and BOCES Aid for Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs

The BOCES of New York State urge legislators to provide all New York state students with access to programs that lead to multiple pathways for high school graduation, including the new CTE-based pathway. Funding for CTE should be enhanced by adjusting the existing aid formula that supports these programs and by supporting the Regents proposal for the establishment of a CTE Technology Facility Construction Fund.

Recommendation: The existing CTE BOCES Aid formula dates to 1990 and only provides aid for $30,000 of a BOCES CTE instructor’s salary. Because of this, the state’s contribution to Career and Technical Education continues to decrease, shifting the costs to the local tax payers. The BOCES of New York State recommends that 100 percent of a BOCES CTE instructor’s salary be “aidable.” It is also recommended that the formula include those BOCES instructors who teach in P-Tech programs and STEM high schools.

Authorize BOCES to operate regional high schools

Currently school districts are permitted to join neighboring districts only through a lengthy, formalized merger or consolidation process. A BOCES-provided regional high school would allow individual school districts to retain their local identity and governance structure while providing access to a full range of expanded learning opportunities for their students. Without this option, districts that are unable to merge will continue to lose programs and opportunities for their students.

Recommendation: The BOCES of New York State recommends that state leaders authorize BOCES to operate regional high schools and similarly authorize local school boards the ability to participate in BOCES-provided regional high schools.

Help BOCES address concerns about legacy costs

Authorize BOCES to address long-term employee costs through the establishment of other post-employment benefit (OPEB) trusts or reserves.

Despite the large and increasing costs that BOCES continue to incur each year on behalf of their component districts in employee post-retirement benefits (OPEB), BOCES does not have the legal ability to set aside funds for this purpose. As a result, this very significant long-term financial liability is a ticking time bomb that threatens the fiscal stability of BOCES and their component districts. To date, it is estimated that the 37 BOCES have responsibility for approximately $3.5 billion in legacy costs for all current employees and retirees.

Recommendation: The BOCES of New York State supports the State Comptroller’s proposal (A5525) that authorizes the establishment of other post-employment benefits trusts.

Other supported positions:

Repair Reserve Fund Authorization:

School districts, along with other municipal governments, have the authority to establish repair reserve funds as a way to ensure that funds are available for unexpected, but necessary, capital repairs. BOCES of New York State recommends that BOCES be allowed to establish repair reserve funds.

Establishment of Worker’s Compensation Reserve Fund:

School districts, along with other municipal governments, have the authority to establish a Workers’ Compensation Reserve. BOCES, as public sector employers, have the same legal responsibility for paying workers’ compensation claims for their employees. However, BOCES are not currently authorized to establish this reserve. BOCES of New York State recommends that BOCES be authorized to establish a Workers’ Compensation Reserve Fund.

Changes to pre-school special education rate setting:

BOCES pre-school special education programs provide comprehensive services to pre-school children with disabilities who present wide ranging and very unique needs. Current pre-school special education rates are insufficient to allow the BOCES who provide these services to adequately support children with disabilities in their region. The BOCES of New York State recommends changes to the rate setting process to allow for greater financial flexibility in the provision of these services. In addition, while there recently has been modest growth in reimbursement rates for pre-school handicapped programs, they remain inadequate. The BOCES of New York State recommends the re-establishment of an annual growth factor that is sufficient to cover program costs.