ICC will see Questar III refund, but costs will rise

KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane School District will receive a credit of $926,000 from Questar III/BOCES. The money, from an employment benefit reserve, was discussed by the school board at the regular meeting August 5.

The funds will not affect this year’s budget and the payout, which will be used as a credit for administrative costs the district pays annually to Questar III, will be returned to the district over an as yet undetermined period lasting between 5 and 10 years. A committee at Questar is deciding on the payout timing based on what different districts within Questar III system request. All the districts will be reimbursed the amount due to them as a credit once the committee decides on the timing.

ICC Business Administrator Michael Brennan explained to the board that from 2000 to 2013 Questar III collected money from the districts in an account called the Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB) reserve for BOCES retirees. The money was set aside, according to the Questar website, “to minimize the long-term financial obligation to its component school districts.” After three districts questioned need for reserve, the Office of the State Comptroller rejected the how Questar collected the district’s funds, a decision that meant Questar III had to return $22.9 million it collected from the districts.

“It was great,” said Mr. Brennan of the decision, “but it was a lot of work.” He said the Questar III committee, called the Task Force, decided on the amount for each district after a forensic audit. The Task Force also determined that the money would be returned to the districts through a credit toward what those districts pay to Questar for services.

After this week’s meeting School Superintendent George Zini said that the total cost for Questar III services in the ICC annual budget is about $2 million of which about $200,000 currently goes for administrative costs.

The Questar III website says that “school districts will see an increase in the amount of their administrative charge due to the full funding of OPEB out of the administrative budget and subsequent reduction of Questar III’s OPEB accrual fund.”

The board will continue to discuss the issue when the district knows the schedule the Task Force will to give the credits to the districts. Mr. Brennan recommended that the board support the shortest timeline of five years for the credits.

The meeting started with a public hearing on the district’s code of conduct and attendance policies. Though the board approved the codes Mr. Zini said that with a new high school principal, who started in July, administrators will be reviewing some of the codes for the high school, including the demerit system they now uses.

The board also discussed the ongoing construction project. Walls are going up in the library, guidance office and nurse’s office in the high school. Those rooms are scheduled to be open by the start of school in September.

“The guys are running a marathon at a sprinters pace,” said Director of Facilities Steven Marotta.

The high school gym is not scheduled to open until the end of September.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, August 19 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

 

 

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