NW BOCES withdrawal decision to be made by Dec. 20

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— After nearly three months of effort, Steamboat Springs School District may be within two weeks of receiving its wish to withdraw as a member of the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

In August, the district requested the Colorado Department of Education approve its withdrawal from NW BOCES, allowing the district to become its own special education administrative unit. Currently, NW BOCES manages and staffs the district's special education programs.

In late September, the Department of Education responded to the district’s request by asking Steamboat to send back more information on financial implications should the move be granted. The CDE also asked that a third-party consultant be brought in to crunch numbers and hash out the details of the proposed withdrawal.

Howard Tucker, a retired former director of finance for Jefferson County and Alamosa school districts, was hired to conduct the independent review.

Tucker prepared separate projections of revenue and expenses for the district and NW BOCES. He found that should CDE approve the move, Steamboat’s 2014-15 cost savings after calculating increased grant revenue and incurred expenses would be in the realm of $127,000 to be used for “additional special education costs.”

Factoring in additional grant revenue and staff and other cost reductions, Tucker estimated NW BOCES' lost revenue in the wake of Steamboat's withdrawal from the program would be an estimated $85,000 next school year. Tucker suggested NW BOCES dip into its fund balance to make up for the $85,000 reduction in funding. Superintendent Brad Meeks said NW BOCES has about a $440,000 fund balance that “is still growing.”

CDE received Tucker’s report Monday, and Meeks said it’s just a matter of days before the issue is resolved.

“What CDE has informed us is the review team is going to meet next week, and they’re anticipating they’re going to have a decision to us no later than Dec. 20,” Meeks said.

Once CDE informs Steamboat of its decision – should the decision be in Steamboat’s favor – the first item of business would be hiring a special education director for the district.

Meeks said at least one person already has shown interest in the position, and if the withdrawal is approved and a director is hired, staff positions would then be filled.

The Steamboat district will continue functioning under NW BOCES until the end of the school year, Meeks said.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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