East Ramapo Nonpayment Could Impact All BOCES Students (VIDEO)

Rockland BOCES superintendent warns if $5 million owed by East Ramapo School District is not paid, staff could be cut and programs reduced


Rockland BOCES Superintendent Mary Jean Marsico told approximately 50 parents on Monday night they need to mobilize and contact state and local officials by phone and email to pressure East Ramapo to pay the $5 million overdue for its students’ tuition.  Marsico said “A Call To Action” alert involves the PTA, parents and BOCES unions. 

The evening information session was the second one conducted on Monday to apprise parents and caregivers of the current situation faced by BOCES.  Marsico stated East Ramapo is already 90 days late in paying the $5 million bill.  It is putting Rockland’s seven other school districts at risk because they also send students to BOCES’ special education and career services programs. 

Marsico told parents the state Education Department originally set a January 2 deadline for East Ramapo to come up with a plan to pay BOCES.  The date passed without any response from the financially strapped school district. A new date of Wednesday, Jan. 16 has been established to pay the bill and prepare a fiscal plan to submit to the department.  She said BOCES has been creating a triage plan because the nonpayment could impact every other school district.

East Ramapo sends 252 students to BOCES programs. 176 are enrolled in special education classes and 76 in career education.

Rockland’s eight school districts send about 1,000 students to BOCES’ special education programs such as the Jesse Kaplan School and 500 to its career education courses. In addition BOCES has 30 district-based classes throughout Rockland for special education students. It employs more than 900 people some of whom provide required professional development training for teachers. 

Marsico said the impact of any program cutbacks would be felt by local small businesses that hire their career graduates. About 5,000 adults take classes through BOCES including 3,500 who are learning to speak English. 

Hilltop School PTA President Joan Raynor and Jesse Kaplan School PTA Co-President Ourania Reyes urged attendees to contact local officials to pressure East Ramapo.  They provided talking points and a list of officials (see attached PDFs) and will post sample letters on http://jessekaplan-pta.org on Wednesday. 

Marsico said administrators met with East Ramapo officials before the year-end break, spoke this week with the state education commissioner and Board of Regents and has been working with all district superintendents on a backup plan.

“I have faith in the state education department and the leverage they are going to use,” she said.

One parent voiced an opposite opinion and said, “I have no faith in the state, the (East Ramapo) board of education. I don’t think they’re going to pay up." 

Oscar Dais of Pomona echoed that sentiment about the board and said, “These guys have a wicked heart.”

Marsico explained what legislative changes might occur from the current situation.

“We only run our budget for one year,” she said.  “At the end of the school year we zero out.”

BOCES is not permitted to have reserves. If any money is unspent at the end of the school year it is returned proportionately to all districts. It means BOCES cannot manage if a district is late paying its bill.  Marsico said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Senator David Carlucci, who attended the meeting, were working to have that law revised.   

Jaffee said she was also working on legislation to allow BOCES to have a two-year budget. Carlucci said the goal is to strengthen BOCES financially.

Jaffee, who had been a teacher in East Ramapo, said, “We’ve had constant contact (with state education commissioner and deputy commissioner). We’ll continue to be very strong advocates to resolve this situation.” 

County Legislator Cris Carey and Clarkstown Councilman George Hoehmann were also at the meeting.

Marsico said there is a “soft freeze” on spending and they are talking to vendors and asking for payment periods to be extended from 30 to 45 days so BOCES can pay its employees.

When asked about the possibility of the state education commissioner taking over the district, she explained that could only take place if there is a direct violation of a commissioner’s order. She said if there in no response from East Ramapo on January 16 then the commissioner could issue an order, which could set the stage for a state takeover. 

Marsico said, “You as parents need to know we are committed to continue the legacy we have.”

GWashington January 08, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Why are public tax dollars going to teach people to speak English? This is the basis for this madness. This is socialism run amok. Don't pay. Stop burdening the general public with "special needs" children. They public school system was established for the general education of society. Those who require special assistance should bear that burden themselves.
Observer January 08, 2013 at 12:41 PM
Jaffee said, “We’ve had constant contact (with state education commissioner and deputy commissioner). We’ll continue to be very strong advocates to resolve this situation.” - what does this mean? this doesn't really offer any information or timeline of value to the community. How about the local politicians work towards making all of Rockland residents pay taxes equally? that'd be a policy that would pay dividends across the board. Or maybe Gromack could organize a meeting that included politicians from various levels including County so we all could hear them debate and discuss a collaborative blueprint for our area's future instead of finger-pointing at their respective meetings on their isolated stages. Time that elected officials listened and addressed the needs of the people they are supposed to be representing, minus the rhetoric.
John January 08, 2013 at 12:49 PM
We all bear the burden. To think otherwise is short sided.
mg6 January 08, 2013 at 01:16 PM
@ GWashington..That is the most ignorant statement I've ever heard. Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate education (No Child Left Behind) I hope you never have to endure a child with special needs. School is not the only assistance the parents of special needs children have to endure so if you think we are receiving a "Free" ride you are greatly mistaken. My child is not in the Ramapo district and between the taxes, medical bills and additional therapies and programs I pay out of my pocket I could pay to send 3 kids to private school...So why shouldn't the children with Special Needs be able to go to the public school...For that matter then I should stop paying my Clarkstown School taxes? That statement was very insensitive and if you have a child with special needs you would know there is much more that the parents have to deal with , I can't even use the word "burden" because we Love our children and anything we have to do is not a burden ..So worry about the people scamming the system with welfare and faking disabilities so they can waste space and collect our hard earned money...
Andromachos January 08, 2013 at 01:22 PM
I can not imagine a bigger waste of time than having politicians discuss "a collaborative blueprint for our area's future." All that can be expected is pablum and generalities of a beautiful future that will, ultimately be derailed by political practicalities.
Carlo Pellegrini January 08, 2013 at 01:57 PM
I would like to know why East Ramapo district not paying their $5mil tab. Did they take in the money and divert it to other payouts? Do they bill parents directly for services then wait for payments which do not come, but provide service anyway? I apologize for not being more up to speed on this issue. Can someone point me in the direction of a previous article discussing this issue?
Nyack Resident January 08, 2013 at 01:59 PM
All RC taxpayers will have to dig a little deeper to make up for the shortfall caused be East Ramapo and rightfully so. Just because they are unable to pay should not exclude them from benefitting from BOCES like their rich neighbors in other areas of the County. It's all about the kids!
Sydney Smith January 08, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Just a point of interest-Over the past 25 years I have contacted BOCES six (6) times to offer a graduating student a job in the plumbing or air-conditioning service industry. They never responded once to my request. Now I believe they no longer train young people in these trades and that is a shame.
Carlo Pellegrini January 08, 2013 at 02:11 PM
If anyone is interested, found a good link describing the historical mess in East Ramapo: http://www.lohud.com/article/20120910/NEWS03/309100060/Few-see-answer-East-Ramapo-s-strains?odyssey=mod%7Cdefcon%7Ctext%7CFrontpage. See timeline in left-hand margin. What a mess. The issue is not the special needs kids; the issue seems to be a perfect storm of social, demographic and economic misfortunes that the East Ramapo Board cannot get a handle on. They literally want Albany to bail them out. This may account for why they are not responding to these artificial deadlines of Jan. 2 and Jan. 16.
Phyllis January 08, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Well stated mg6. I too was appaled when I read GWashington's comment.
Clarkstown Citizen January 08, 2013 at 04:58 PM
YES ! How about we also do something about those senior citizens that "burden" the general public. Think of how much money we could save if we didn't have to bow down and create accessibility for all those handicapped persons that "burden" the general public. Imagine how great it would be if we could put down the terminally ill so the insurance companies could lower the high rates that "burden" the general public. Don't special needs students, senior citizens, disabled people and terminally ill people make up part of the general public. Your views are a burden on society.
Pat Hoffman January 08, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Probably the best thing that could happen to East Ramapo would be for the State to take over and see where all the misuse of funds and tax money is going. It used to be a great school system. A complete change is needed from School Board all the way up.
Pat Godfrey January 08, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Let people be laid off. Every other industry has cut workers accept the public school system and they are doing a terrible job. 39% drop out rate, higher illiteracy rate. Notice they do not mention how effective they are with the children. Whatever they do in the schools today it is not about teaching. Based on this story and what I here out of the teachers unions, principles and politicians is all they want is more $.
Maryann January 08, 2013 at 11:35 PM
No use lecturing someone who is that ignorant. They prefer to remain that way. As for the schools, something is horribly broken. All of the schools are crying bankruptcy and yet my taxes have almost tripled in the past 15 years. Our salaries haven't. So, where is the money going? I don't think all of the school districts can possibly be mishandling funds, so what is the core issue? Goodness knows, our kids can't spell, they don't know their multiplication tables, they have a terrible grasp of grammar and even larger gap of knowledge about geography.
Richard Ellis January 09, 2013 at 01:42 PM
I couldn't disagree more GWashington. State education has an obligation to help disabled children. Parents of these kids are overwhelmed and don't know where to go. State Ed is crucial. And teaching English to Spanish kids is key to there education. If they don't speak English they won't learn; and this is the mission of our districts. R U Republican?...sorry, I had to ask
Robin Traum (Editor) January 09, 2013 at 06:14 PM
GWashington Adults attending Rockland BOCES classes pay for their tuition. District officials says participants pay for the program. Robin
Sasha Bunchuk January 17, 2013 at 07:34 PM
No Money??? Start by determining where the money for the "sale" of 2 schools is. Then find out where the "rental" fees for Hillcrest and Colton are. Then see if the attorney for the ERSD has cashed all his overtime checks. Then get the money for the books "loaned" to private schools . Then see if the "contractors" paid without bids will return their fees. Wonder why the thieves on the Board say they have "no money?


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