Albany, NY - The New York State legislature created Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in 1948 to provide shared educational programs and services to school districts within the state. Since then, BOCES has been providing career and technical programs for high school students, services for students with disabilities, and literacy programs and employment training for adults. As schools continue to face economic challenges, the need for BOCES' services and the efficiency that they provide is more evident than ever. Yet BOCES has been unable to benefit from tax cap legislation that has provided financial assistance to school districts. This issue has jeopardized BOCES' ability to upgrade their aging facilities.
Recognizing the need to put BOCES on an even keel with other schools, Senator Terrence Murphy sponsored S7730, a bill exempting BOCES capital expenditures from school district tax levy limits. The Senate passed the bill unanimously on June 13 by a vote of 60-0.
"BOCES has been providing programs and services for school districts for more than half a century," said Senator Murphy. "Their innovative, all-inclusive brand of high-quality education deserves our continued support. This bill will help level the playing field financially for BOCES, providing them with the same capital expenditure exemptions as local school districts."
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef sponsored A9825, the corresponding legislation in the Assembly. The bill passed the Assembly on June 19. "This is an important day for the over 100,000 students who attend educational programs in one New York State's 37 BOCES. Ensuring the safety of our students must be our top priority - this legislation achieves this goal", said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef. "By allowing these essential capital expenditures to be outside the tax cap, upon approval of the voters, we are rectifying this serious problem."
"We are extremely grateful to Senator Murphy and Assemblywoman Galef for sponsoring this well deserved and important legislation," stated Dr. George Stone, Superintendent for the Lakeland Central School District. "BOCES is really a composite and extension of our component districts. We could not survive or thrive without this critical shared service model that supports all the work we do. The BOCES campus and facilities are expansive and require repairs and enhancements just as our local buildings do, and our taxpayers foot the bill for those improvements. It is only fair and just that they receive the same consideration and exemptions related to the tax cap as any other local district educational facility, and on behalf of our taxpayers, Thank You!"
Anthony DiCarlo, Superintendent for Mahopac Central School District added, "This is very exciting news. We are one of the largest subscribers to BOCES' services. It is important that students interested in improving their technical skills have educational resources available to succeed. Now BOCES has the opportunity to expand and upgrade their services."
When the New York State Legislature adopted the tax cap legislation in 2011, it allowed school districts to exclude bonding for capital projects from the cap. The tax cap legislation did not include an exemption for BOCES capital projects. BOCES own and operate over 600 buildings throughout the state. Many of these buildings are old, outdated, and in critical need of capital upgrades. Under current law, BOCES capital expenditures must be approved by each of their component school districts. Each component district includes these costs in their district budget that is presented to the voters of each district. This legislation corrects this oversight.
The bill now awaits the Governor's approval.