CASTLETON-ON-HUDSON—Columbia County’s six public school districts purchase a variety of educational services from Questar III BOCES, the BOCES for Columbia and parts of Rensselaer and Greene counties. This spring Questar submitted plans for the 2022-23 school year, including what each of the districts in Questar III will pay in administrative fees, what Questar’s tentative budget would be, and who will sit on its governing board. The boards of education of what are called the “component districts” have now adopted those parts of the Questar III plan that needed their approval.
New York State established BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services) to provide programs and services that districts are unable to offer on their own or that are more economical to share with other districts, according to Questar’s Tentative Budget overview of March 2022.
Questar III has 21 component districts. It provides some services at its own facilities and some services in its component districts’ buildings. Students it serves include both those in special education and those in general education.
Each component district pays Questar both the cost of individual services it purchases and an annual administrative/rent/capital fee. Each district’s administrative/rent/capital fee is based on its Resident Weighted Average Daily Attendance (RWADA). On March 22, Questar Superintendent Dr. Gladys Cruz sent each component district a note specifying its fee for 2022-23. The charges for Columbia County districts were:
Of each district’s fee, 72.2% was for the administrative budget, according to information provided by Dan Sherman, director of communication, on May 31.
On April 26, the boards of education of all Questar III’s component districts but one approved the administrative budget, and their districts’ contribution to it. The one exception was Chatham, whose board did not have a quorum on April 26 and could not vote. But Dr. Cruz said that when a majority of the component districts approve the administrative budget, the budget stands and the fee is paid.
The administrative/rent/capital budget is the only part of Questar’s budget that the component school districts must approve. But it makes up only about 11% of Questar’s total budget. State and federal grants contribute a smaller portion of its revenue. Questar gets most of its revenue from component districts when they pay for the Questar programs and services they decide to receive.
‘Final program budgets… depend upon service requests from districts.’
Questar III BOCES Executive Summary
Unlike school district budgets, BOCES’ budgets “are determined by revenue generated rather than predetermined expenditures,” says the Questar’s Executive Summary to its tentative 2022-23 budget. “Final program budgets… depend upon service requests from districts.” Whenever “fluctuations” occur in “program enrollments or district participation,” the tentative budget is adjusted. This can happen throughout the July 1 – June 30 school year. Therefore, the latest year for which actual expenditures are available is 2020-21. In addition, BOCES cannot levy taxes.
Questar’s tentative budget for 2022-23, as of March 2022, anticipated $89.8 million. However, the actual 2020-21 expenditures of $77.6 million turned out to be only 97% of that year’s tentative budget. The actual 2019-20 expenditures of $74.1 million turned out to be only 96% of that year’s tentative budget.
In 2020-21, by service category: 34% of Questar’s budget went to Special Education; 18% to district support; 13% to Career and Technical Education; and 11% to Instructional Support. The 2022-23 tentative budget as of March anticipated devoting similar proportions to those categories.
District support services include asset management, financial planning, health and safety, communication, and technology services. Instructional Support Services include data coordination and analysis, professional development, Odyssey of the Mind, Model Schools, and instructional technology and equipment. These services go to only those districts that buy them for the year.
On April 26, the component district boards of education also elected four members to the Questar III Board. Questar’s Board has 11 members, with three year terms. This year four terms expire June 30, only two incumbents ran for reelection, two new candidates were nominated and all four who ran were elected.
The Questar board for 2022-23 will have four members from Columbia County:
•Edmund Brooks of Valatie, on Questar’s board since 2015. He has also served on the Ichabod Crane Board of Education from 1996 to 2006, on the Tech Valley High School Operating Board, and as president of both boards. His daughters graduated from Ichabod Crane
•Mary Daly of Hudson, on Questar’s board since 2017. She also served on the Hudson City School District’s Board of Education from 2016 to 2012, including a year as president. She and her three children all graduated from Hudson High School
•Nadine Gazzola of the Taconic Hills Central School District, on the Questar board since 2016 and its president since 2021. She was also on the Taconic Hills Board of Education from 2014 to 2019. She graduated from Ichabod Crane
•Melony Spock of Chatham, new on Questar’s board. She was also on Chatham’s Board of Education from 2009 to 2017, six of those years as president. She graduated from Taconic Hills High School.