County officials attend New York State Association of Counties conference

By Debra J. Groom

A number of Oswego County officials are in Albany Monday through today to show their support for resolutions coming before the New York State Association of Counties.

Many of the resolutions deal with issues in which the state is taking money away from counties.

And when the states takes money from counties, the bottom line is taxpayers usually get hurt because the counties have to raise taxes or cut services to make up for the lost money when it comes budget time.

Going to Albany for the annual meeting are County Administrator Philip Church, county Legislators James Karasek, R-Granby, Terry Wilbur, R-Hannibal, Margaret Kastler, R-Lacona, John Martino, R-West Monroe, Robert Hayes, R-Schroeppel, Amy Treissider, D-Oswego and Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski, Emergency Management Director Dale Currier, E-911 Direcctor Michael Allen and Health Department Director Jiancheng Huang.

Here are some of the resolutions they will support:

** Urging the governor and state legislature to take action to relieve counties from the expenses associated with housing state parole violators in county jails.

This has been a huge issue in Oswego County for the last few years.

In 2012, Sheriff Reuel Todd had to keep going back to the legislature to ask for more money to pay for housing state parolees in other counties when the Oswego County jail was full. He spent more than $1 million above what was budgeted to house those parolees that year.

Since then, the county has come up with some ways to keep people out of the county jail, such as electronic ankle monitors and ensuring cases are handled swiftly.

The resolution coming before the state Association of Counties states “inmates held on parole violations are a state responsibility and for years the state reimbursed counties for a portion of the costs associated with housing these inmates.”

But, the state eliminated this reimbursement in the 2009-10 state budget.

** Urging the governor and state legislature to enact reform in the Preschool Special Education Program.

The resolution states a law to provide preschool for children with handicapping conditions was enacted in 1989 and the law included a provision to reduce the amount of money counties pay for the program to 25 percent by the 1993-94 school year.

But this never happened and counties now are mandated under state law to fund 40.5 percent of a program whose costs have grown from $100 million in 1989 to more than $2 billion in 2012.

Church said Oswego County taxpayers are paying nearly $3 million for the program this year. If counties had to pay only 25 percent of the cost like the law states, Oswego County would save about $1 million, Church said.

** Calling on the governor and legislature to delay further reduction to early intervention administrative grants to counties.

Church said counties had been paying 51 percent of the Early Intervention program costs, including administration of the program.

In 2012, “the state decided the counties would no longer administer the program and instead, the state would hire a statewide fiscal agent to administer the billing.” He said this agent was to be hired and working in 2013.

After the agent was on the job, the counties would receive less money from the state fort the program because they no longer administer the program.

But, the agent was not hired and in place on time, yet the state still cut the counties’ funding. The resolution asks the state to not begin further funding cuts until the state fiscal agent “has totally taken over the administration” of the program.

** Calling on Gov. Cuomo and the state legislature to more equitably and efficiently impose the 9-1-1 surcharge on all wireless communications devices and use money from this surcharge to fund county E-911 services.

Right now, people who have cell phone contracts with companies like Verizon, T. Mobile or Sprint pay a surcharge each month of $1.20 that goes to counties to pay for E-911 emergency services.

But E-911 Director Michael Allen said no surcharge is paid by people with prepaid service, such as Tracfone customers.

To date, 29 states have expanded their 911 surcharge to pre-paid phones, but New York has not. Also, the state Association of Counties resolution states most of the nearly $200 million brought in by the state in these surcharges is not used for E-911.

More than 800 county leaders from throughout New York state are going to the Association of Counties legislative conference.

They will discuss the issues most critical to counties, including the governor’s property tax proposal and state budget, continuing shared services initiatives, mandate reform, emergency preparedness, universal pre-k, and local Medicaid costs.

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