A Tax Watch investigation published Sunday found that the state’s network of regional Boards of Cooperative Educational Services—BOCES—overcharged school districts by a total of $473 million between 2007 and 2011. At least $100 million in overcharges is likely for 2012.
The 37 BOCES districts spend nearly $3 billion a year to provide instruction in career, technical and special education; classes for adults and teachers; and back-office support for local school districts. They are funded through state aid and payments by local school districts. Unlike municipalities and school districts, BOCES can’t place unused funds in reserve at the end of the year.
State Education Commissioner John King told The Journal News/Lohud.com the overcharges followed by refunds the following year is an “accounting process” that’s necessary in order to run the system.
“The payments for services that aren’t rendered in a particular year are then applied to next year’s activities,” he said. “The taxpayers are still getting services for those dollars, even if there is an accounting delay.”
Kent Gardner, chief economist for the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester, pointed out that it’s the districts, not the taxpayers, that get reimbursed for the overcharges. “The taxpayer doesn’t get the refund,” he said.
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