East Ramapo School District Superintendent Joel Klein assured Rockland BOCES Superintendent Mary Jean Marsico Wednesday morning the district would pay its bill. East Ramapo owes BOCES $5 million for tuition and services that is more than 90 days overdue. But she said Klein would not set a specific payment date or amount.
“We don’t have any timeline of payment,” said Marsico. “He could not lock into a timeframe.”
Despite the lack of specifics, Marsico is encouraged. Klein told her the $15 million to pay for the BOCES tuition of East Ramapo students and professional development for the 2012- 2013 school year was in the budget. Marsico said the East Ramapo board’s decision on Tuesday night to borrow more than $9 million was not to pay BOCES.
“All along the district has said they had the money to pay BOCES,” said Marsico.
Marsico said she intends to keep pressuring for the money. BOCES’ deputy superintendent and business officials plan to speak with Klein on Thursday. She said she would be speaking with the state commissioner of education today and then updating the BOCES Board of Education on the topic as its evening meeting. Marsico hopes to have more information from East Ramapo late Thursday afternoon.
“Right now this is a countywide education issue,” said Rockland BOCES Director of Communications Stephanie Gouss.
East Ramapo along with North Rockland sends the most students of all eight Rockland districts to BOCES. Of East Ramapo’s 272 students 176 are enrolled in special education classes and 76 are in its career and technical training programs. In response to the late payment, BOCES froze its spending and has asked vendors for payment periods longer than 30 days so it can meet its payroll.
Parents of Rockland BOCES students were asked at Monday’s informational meetings to send letters supporting their child’s program to state and local officials. The letter sent by one of the Jesse Kaplan School PTA co-presidents is posted on the PTA website along with the contact information for government officials. At staff meetings last week, union members were asked to lobby for district as well.
BOCES districts are not permitted by law to establish reserve funds or create multiyear budgets. Marsico is working with state officials on drafting legislation to change the financial structure allowed under state law.
The financial issue with East Ramapo began in September.
“In September, we hadn’t received any payment for any of their services since June 30,” said Marsico.
She explained there were differences over the number of students that attended summer programs, which was resolved. But then the payment made covered the summer school bill minus the capital and administrative portion. Meetings were held with East Ramapo and state officials in October and again before the year-end break.
The state education commissioner set requirements for the district for January 2, which were not followed. A second deadline of January 16 was set. Marsico said if there has not been any payment and the deadlines passed, BOCES will have to put alternative plans into place, which she would not disclose.
“We will take action after the 16th if there is failure to comply with the commissioner’s directive,” she said.