Schenectady County

County balks at college increase

County officials looking at Schenectady County Community College’s request for a $120,000 increase i
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County officials looking at Schenectady County Community College’s request for a $120,000 increase in its 2008-2009 allocation are suggesting school leaders look elsewhere.

The Schenectady County Legislature will have its first crack at SCCC’s request today when it sets a public hearing on the college’s proposed $22,091,200 budget. The hearing is expected to be scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 12.

College board of trustees approved the budget June 16 with the $120,000 request. Trustees want the county to increase its contribution from $1,918,694 to $2,038,694 as a way to close a funding gap. The college intends to raise full-time tuition nearly 5 percent next year but does not want to tap its budget surplus any further.

The county Legislature will vote on the college’s budget after the August public hearing. Early indications are that county officials want the college to consider other ways to raise revenue, such as introducing a car registration fee, said Legislator Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee.

“I understand the college administration’s desire to see an increase in local share, but it is important that they also understand the fiscal situation the county finds itself in,” Hughes said.

The county is anticipating at a difficult fiscal year in 2009 and is looking for ways to reduce costs, Hughes said. “We are seeing reductions in state funding and increases in the unfunded mandates we have. We are seeing additional costs being transferred to the county this year.”

County Manager Kathleen Rooney said the county can expect a loss of $1.1 million in state and federal aid this year and $1.6 million in 2009.

The state and federal governments are on different budget cycles than the county, whose fiscal year begins Jan. 1.

Hughes said college officials should be willing to consider a car registration fee. The county suggested the fee last year when the college asked for a sponsorship increase for the current year budget. College officials rejected the option, saying they did not want to burden students.

Trustees instead raised tuition and tapped their fund balance.

Hughes said the registration fee could be attached to a student’s tuition costs, making it easier to implement than having people come in to obtain parking stickers.

“It is a viable way to close the gap and the county manager and county finance commissioner will continue to look at it as a viable method,” Hughes said.

He said expects county and college officials to discuss various options during the next month. Rooney said Finance Commissioner George Davidson is just beginning to review the college’s budget.

She called the car registration fee an option. “To me, all things should be on table at least for discussion.”

Legislator Joseph Suhrada, R-Rotterdam, said he supports the fee. “I think a modest car registration fee is acceptable.

Every other college does it,” he said. “It is incumbent on trustees not to be so embarrassed to ask for a parking fee.”

SHERIFF’S CONTRACT

In other business today, legislators will consider a resolution approving a three-year contract with the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Benevolent Association, the last remaining bargaining unit to reach contract terms.

The contract covers 2007, 2008 and 2009 and contains 3 percent raises for each year.

The association represents corrections officers, corrections supervisors and road patrol officers.

The contract is similar to those made with the county’s two other unions. It includes significant savings through restructuring of health-care benefits.

Categories: Schenectady County

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