If you know anything about BOCES, it’s that the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services are supposed to help school districts be more efficient and save money through collaboration and sharing services.
So it’s kind of odd that an audit of four BOCES in central New York state found that in many instances, BOCES’ costs for non-instructional services are GREATER than what districts would pay if they performed the services themselves.
There are 37 local BOCES in New York that serve groupings of school districts. These include BOCES for southern Westchester, northern Westchester and Putnam, and Rockland.
Each BOCES offers a variety of educational programs for students with various needs from its member districts. But in addition, each BOCES provides a bunch of non-instructional services that are supposed to help districts save money.
But this audit of four BOCES units by the state comptroller’s office found that in 28 of 47 instances where auditors could compare costs, BOCES’ costs were 56 percent higher, on average, than what districts would spend to deliver the same services.
The audit found that in many instances, districts contract with BOCES to deliver services simply because it helps them get a particular kind of state aid known as BOCES aid.
An audit report explains: “Therefore, the availability of BOCES Aid does not incentivize BOCES to minimize service costs, or districts to demand less expensive choices; instead, BOCES Aid shifts the burden of BOCES extra costs from local taxpayers to State taxpayers.”
This audit would seem to raise serious questions about the BOCES model—although school districts probably don’t care that much if the system shifts some of the tax burden from local taxpayers to state taxpayers.
The audit looked at 2006-2010 spending in these four BOCES units: Onondaga-Cortland-Madison, Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery, Delaware-Chenango-Madison-Otsego, and Oneida-Herkimer-Madison. The four spent about $47 million to provide non-instructional services in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
Here’s the key state recommendation:
“BOCES officials should make good faith efforts to ensure that non-instructional services are cost-effective and efficient, and result in total costs (before BOCES Aid) that are lower than the costs districts would pay to provide the services themselves.”