Early last week, Rockland BOCES Superintendent Mary Jean Marsico spoke out about the issues caused by East Ramapo's failure pay $5 million it owes for its students' tuition.
East Ramapo did not meet a Jan. 2 deadline set by the NYS Education Department (NYSED) Commissioner's office to provide a plan of payment. An extension was granted, with Jan. 16 as the new deadline.
East Ramapo Superintendent Dr. Joel Klein responded Wednesday with a letter to NYSED Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz that includes a payment plan and details of measures the district will be taking to pay its debt, but no specifics on how much BOCES will be paid. That plan includes making a payment this Friday for services through Oct. 2012.
According to BOCES Director of Communications Stephanie Gouss said they are waiting for a response to East Ramapo from the NYSED Comissioner's office.
"There was a detailed response to the letter that was sent" Gouss said. "There is a payment plan."
The proposed schedule shows monthly payments for services provided by BOCES three months prior. East Ramapo proposes to make the payments from January through September 2013 to cover BOCES services from October 2012 through June 2013.
Klein also sent a plan for cuts that would balance the East Ramapo budget for 2012-13 and 2013-14, but wrote that he is not recommending them to his board of education.
"Instead, I am recommending a Budget Note to close the deficit," Klein wrote. "While the enumerated cuts could be made this year to create a balanced budget (without incurring the additional debt), those cuts would devastate our educational program and disserve our student population. I therefore cannot recommend the draconian cuts to our board, and will not do so."
Klein went on to ask for written instructions from the NYSED if it plans to direct the district to make those cuts.
Klein blamed the district's problems on its "near-unique distribution of public and non-public school students." Less than one third of the 29,000 school-age students in East Ramapo attend public schools. He claims that the state does not provide the proper funding for the district to meet mandated costs such as special education for the students who do not attend public schools.
"We have concluded that there is literally almost nothing we can do to get the financial operations of our district in sync without an overhaul of the state funding formula for our district," Klein wrote.
Klein also spoke out against public criticism of his district in relation to its budget issues.
"For reasons we cannot understand, your office has chosen to play out its confrontational dealings with our district in the public eye," Klein wrote. "While we have studiously sought to avoid public responses and comments on your office's activities, we feel it is necessary to share this response more publicly, so that at least our side of the story is available for those who are interested, even if they choose to ignore it."
Klein sent copies of the letter to the district board of education, NYSED Commissioner John B. King, Assistant Commissioner Charles Szuberla, State Senator David Carlucci, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Marsico. A copy of the letter is attached to this report.
It was Szuberla who sent a letter asking for more information from the district on Dec. 14, 2012. According to Klein, he wrote Szuberla Dec. 20 telling him that it was not possible to provide all of the information in the time allowed, partially because many district employees would be away for the holidays.
Editor's note: Klein's letter and the addendum detailing East Ramapo plans to address its budget deficit and pay its BOCES bill are attached to this report.