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October 5, 2011 - 11:06pm

Chair of county legislature casts no vote to protest Albany taking more local money

posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, mandate relief.

At a time when protests against a broken system are spreading across the land, Mary Pat Hancock, chairwoman of the Genesee County Legislature, is taking a stand of her own.

At Wednesday's Ways and Means Committee meeting, Hancock voted no on a resolution that the legislature must surely pass or face consequences from the Albany bureaucracy.

Resolution 11 authorizes the country treasurer to transfer funds from various budget lines -- including sales tax money set aside to help deal with the county's aging and crumbling infrastructure -- to pay for a state mandated increase in payments to healthcare providers for pre-kindergarten and early intervention programs for children covered by Medicaid.

The increase in fees is retroactive over the past four years.

"We certainly don’t have the money to go back four years, in other budgets, and come up with the money," Hancock said.

Vexing Hancock more is the fact that for these same types of social service programs, the state is eight, nine and even 10 months behind in reimbursing the county for Medicaid services -- a debt that now exceeds $1.7 million.

"Because of this, we have a shortage of cash and an inability to pay," Hancock said. "Now, we must go into the 1-percent sales tax, which is supposed to be for things like roads and bridges, so of course, I feel righteous indignation. It isn’t anger. I feel that this is unjust in every possible way."

Ways and Means Chairman Hollis Upson said every member of the legislature feels the same way, but most will vote for the resolution at the next legislature meeting because if the resolution isn't passed, the state will just take the money from the county.

The total cost to the county of the increase exceeds $305,000.

Legislator Ray Cianfrini, who isn't on the Ways and Means Committee but was at the meeting, said he intends to vote against the resolution next Thursday.

"I’m as fed up as you are Mary Pat," Cianfrini said. "I'm voting no. I don’t care what the ramifications are."

Hancock said that if she thought the resolution wouldn't pass, she would vote yes, but since she expects the majority of legislators do what they must as mandated by the state, she wants to cast that symbolic no vote next Thursday.

"We’re not the only county being effected in this way, so I’m going to raise my hand and get as much attention on this as I can," Hancock said.

Daniel Jones
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New York state has been a cesspool in years before this one, where the legislature and the Governor started being functional again (trimmed, on time and no tax increase loaded budget, property tax cap, mandate relief) etc but I love how County governments try to blame the state for all of their problems. Instead of playing the game of keeping property tax rate increases at zero and raising assessments and then having notoriously high spending while putting up straw men to cut like Genesee Justice, perhaps Ms. Hancock should start to ask more questions about what's happening in her own County government. None of the legislators are standing up for our interests. None.

Mark Potwora
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Great points Dan...Ms/Hancock whats the point if you are going to pay it anyways....I'm sure that no vote really woke Albany up to mandates....Be a leader Ms.Hancock and make changes at the social services dept....See why they are costing so much...I know there is waste in that dept that can be cut...Do they still take children out of the county to go Marketplace Mall school shopping on the taxpayers dime....I'm sure there are other areas that they could be cutting back...

John Roach
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If they are going to take the money anyway, vote no, and make a statement.
And where is that mandate relief both parties promised? Looking more like a lie every day.

Mark Potwora
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When they ask you for more money by raising your taxes,Is that an unfunded mandate to us the taxpayers

Frank Bartholomew
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Here's an example of how the county wastes our money. A middle school student is found to have behavior issues in school, rather than trying to find out why, the school instead uses discipline and behavior referrals. As it turns out, it is later discovered the student has several handicapping conditions. The parents had to ask for additional evaluations because the school was trying to push this student through. Once the school district realizes the student has handicapping conditions, they file a PINS petition. Off to family court goes the student and family.
The school district passed the buck onto the county. Family court mails 3 petitions to this family, 3 stamps, 3 envelopes, and the time it took to type them up.Now multiply that by 10, as that is how many times letters from the court were sent to the family, and each time for a court appearence. As a taxpayer, I would like to see the total cost to county taxpayers to prosecute this evil child, whose only crime was being disabled.

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