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Understanding How BOCES Works


What is a BOCES?

BOCES stands for Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The Sullivan County BOCES is one of 38 such organizations statewide created by the legislature in 1948 to provide shared services to school districts. The Sullivan County BOCES consists of eight school districts; and, by student population, is the second smallest in New York State.

How does BOCES work?

BOCES services are created when two or more school districts decide they have similar needs that can be met by a shared program. BOCES helps school districts save money by providing opportunities to pool resources and share costs. Sharing is a very economical way for districts to provide programs and services that they might not be able to afford otherwise. It is more efficient and less costly to operate one central service instead of having separate programs in each school district. However, BOCES services are often customized, offering districts the flexibility to meet their individual needs.

Who makes the decision about which BOCES services to purchase?

Each year, local Boards of Education review their districts’ needs and make decisions about BOCES services. Because districts’ needs change every year, decisions about BOCES services may also change every year. The decision to participate in BOCES services is based on the unique needs of each district. If the district doesn't need a BOCES service, it does not request it and will not have to pay for it.

Why do school districts participate in BOCES services?

Because BOCES services are shared by two or more school districts, they cost much less than if districts provided the services on their own. Districts pool their resources, and share the savings. In addition, New York State gives a financial incentive to participate in shared services by offering BOCES state aid for BOCES services. Here is how BOCES state aid works:

  • Each district’s Board of Education selects BOCES services for the current year.
  • The following school year, a portion of the cost of BOCES services is returned to the district by the state of New York.
  • The amount returned to the district is based on a formula that takes into account the district’s financial resources.
  • Money returned to the district is used as revenue.

How do districts pay for BOCES services?

With the exception of an administrative charge based on each school district’s size, districts pay only for BOCES services they use. BOCES expenses are incorporated into each district’s annual budget. State aid helps to offset some of the expenses, while the state or federal government directly funds others. BOCES has no taxing authority.

How is BOCES governed?

Each BOCES is governed by a Board of Education made up of representatives from the component school districts. The Board members are elected by the Boards of Education of the component districts. The Sullivan County BOCES Board has nine members, one from each of the eight districts, and a second Board member from Liberty CSD.