BOCES given OK for stimulus funding

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What: BOCES special meeting

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: Downstairs meeting room in the George P. Sauer Human Services Center on Seventh Street

— The Colorado Department of Education has given BOCES the go-ahead to use federal stimulus funding to make up for last year’s overspending.

However, the Department of Education won’t call the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Ser­vices’ use of the funds a way to make up for the deficit created by overspending nearly $317,000 in 2008-09.

BOCES Executive Director Jane Toothaker has referred to the use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds as a way to “backfill” last year’s deficit. At Thursday’s Hayden School Board meeting, BOCES Board President Brian Hoza (also president of the Hayden School Board) said use of the stimulus funding would “rectify the balance of the previous fiscal year.”

Charm Paulmeno, the Depart­ment of Education’s director of student support services, said she wouldn’t call it that.

“That I can’t speak to,” she said Friday. “All I can tell you is that is an appropriate use of special education (stimulus) funds.”

Paulmeno refused to ack­nowledge that had BOCES not overspent last year’s budget, it would not have needed to request stimulus funding to help close the budget gap. She reiterated that there was no problem with BOCES’ use of the ARRA Individuals with Disabilities Edu­cation Act funds.

In an e-mail Monday to Too­thaker, Paulmeno approved $273,000 in stimulus funds.

“Your application to use a portion of your ARRA IDEA Part B allocation for salaries and benefits for appropriately licensed and endorsed special education staff for the period from February 17, 2009, through June 30, 2009, has been reviewed and approved,” Paulmeno wrote in the e-mail.

In her e-mail, Paulmeno broke down how the funding was to be used:

■ $213,501 for special education salaries

■ $53,374 for benefits

■ $6,125 for indirect costs

The remainder of the deficit, $44,000, would be paid by the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts for costs associated with the Day Treatment program. BOCES hadn’t received payment for Day Treatment as of Friday afternoon, Finance Director Chloe Flam said.

In addition to overspending last year’s budget, in September, BOCES told its six member districts that it would have to increase assessments for the 2009-10 school year by more than $481,000 than what was first presented in May.

On Nov. 12, the BOCES board approved a reduced budget, with assessments at or near what originally was presented, at the request of the district superintendents. At Thursday’s Hayden School Board meeting, Hoza referred to it as a “make-ends-meet budget.”

At that meeting, it also was revealed that BOCES would carry a more than $34,000 deficit into this year — even after applying the stimulus funding.

The deficit was revealed when the BOCES auditor presented his 2008-09 draft audit.

“I was actually a little disturbed that it’s still a moving target as the auditor told us,” Hoza said.

He noted that it wasn’t permissible by state law for a BOCES, which is subject to the School District Budget Law in the Colorado Revised Statutes, to carry a deficit from one year to another.

Flam has said BOCES will address the deficit in this year’s budget.

Mark Stevens, a Department of Education spokesman, said Friday that it still was reviewing the draft audit.

He couldn’t say whether any more action would be taken, in addition to the Department of Education’s stripping BOCES of its responsibility to disburse federal title funding to the districts. BOCES until recently had not disbursed more than $777,000 in federal title program funding to the districts. It had been using that money to cover operating expenses.

The Department of Edu­cation will evaluate in April whether to return to BOCES the responsibility of disbursing that funding.

All the financial issues led the BOCES board to set a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday. The meeting, which will be held in the downstairs conference room of the George P. Sauer Human Services Center on Seventh Street, will be held mostly in executive session.

The board will address issues with BOCES administration — including Toothaker, Flam and Special Education Director Robin Tschider — and questions about how BOCES has been operating.

“The board is challenged with the task of making decisions to help BOCES right the ship and move forward,” Hoza said. “There’s still some work to be done there.”

A public comment opportunity will be at 6:15 p.m., before the board enters executive session at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is scheduled to adjourn at 7:45 p.m.

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