Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s Executive Budget reduces aid and shifts state costs totaling millions to counties while offering to cap their preschool special education program costs and allowing them to raise revenues through local fees, according to an analysis by a state association.
The New York State Association of Counties argues, however, that the cap and revenue enhancements do not offset the shift in state costs to the county level. The association estimates counties will see their costs increase by $77.2 million over the next two years. The association did not calculate the cost to each county of taking on juvenile placements.
“Many of the counties that have analyzed the budget say the positive impact of the cap does not offset the negative impacts for juvenile placements, loss highway aid and more,” said association spokesman Mark Lavigne.
The governor’s budget would increase Schenectady County welfare costs by $343,842, Montgomery’s by $86,214, Saratoga’s by $91,894, Fulton’s by $68,103, Schoharie’s by $26,985 and Albany’s by $711,811, the association said.
New York State Division of Budget spokesman Matt Anderson said the governor’s budget will save counties $125 million this year, on top of the $390 million they are saving by the state’s cap on local Medicaid costs and its takeover of the Family Health Plus program costs.
“You have to look at budget overall, not just these limited pieces,” Anderson said.
The governor’s budget would require counties to pay 2 percent more toward the cost of state welfare programs and the full cost of placement of youths in detention programs, said association of counties.
The governor’s budget also reduces aid to community colleges and nursing homes and for highway maintenance, the association said.
At the same time, Spitzer’s budget caps preschool special education program costs to counties for three years, helps reduce operating costs for county jails and allows counties to increase document recording fees through their clerk offices.
Schenectady County Legislator Vincent DiCerbo, D-Schenectady, chairman of the Legislature’s Committee of Economic Development, said the county “cannot absorb those hits by ourselves. This is the continuing saga of the state balancing the budget on the backs of the county taxpayers.”
Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Amsterdam, said he is concerned about the governor’s budget. “This shift of cost comes at a time when counties have enacted their budgets,” he said. “The counties will have to cut costs or raises taxes to make it up.”