By REBECCA WEBSTER
and CRISTINE MEIXNER
WELLS - Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel believes the State of New York is moving toward regionalizing school districts, and is making the rounds to talk about it.
Regionalization is an idea whose time may have come, because all the BOCES component districts are experiencing reduced revenues. As a result there is a drive toward consolidation and shared services.
The Wells Central School District Board of Education heard Michel's presentation on the new idea March 6. He talked about regionalizing the BOCES district into three zones.
"The new normal basically is that today's economy is forcing us to change," Michel says. "There are going to be a lot of schools still cutting programs for children in order to balance budgets."
Michel's hope with talking about this regionalization idea is to be proactive about the pending issues. He would like to have some ways of sharing services in place before the state mandates it.
Items that will be looked at, Michel said, are transportation, food services, buildings and grounds, administration, etc.
The BOCES will look first at what services each of the component school districts has in each of these areas, which ones other districts could benefit from, and if they can be shared.
Regional zones could even write grant applications together, Michel says.
The BOCES board authorized Michel Sept. 26, 2012 to create a presentation for the governor on a Regional Education Innovation Zone concept.
WCS Superintendent Thomas Sincavage told the BOE this year's tax levy could go up by no more than 3.48 percent under the state's so-called tax cap.
Sincavage told the board about many new, unfunded state mandates as well as other items that will increase in the coming year. As of March 6, Sincavage said, there was a gap of $112,860 between estimated expenditures and revenues in the draft budget.
Items being considered for cutting to bridge the gap are teaching positions, psychologist, occupational and physical therapy and speech, as well as the Business Office reconfiguration decided on earlier.
-- The non-resident tuition rate has been set at $7,000.
-- The BOE adjusted the retirement incentive being offered the teachers to include part-time employees and to make the retirement date no later than July 1.
-- Secretary to the Superintendent Kathleen Towers has clarified that the BOE's attorney advised it that, in order for the board to reach a settlement with a neighboring landowner, it had to first pass the resolution authorizing a lawsuit. The school district has discovered it owns land the neighbors believed was theirs.
-- The Wells Central School District BOE will next meet this evening, March 20, starting at 7 p.m. at the school.
Editor's Note: This article is partially based on draft minutes of the Wells Central School District Board of Education meeting of March 6, 2013 as provided by Secretary to the Superintendent Kathleen Towers.