The Rockland County Legislature recently voted overwhelmingly in support of the County Executive’s decision to .
This move will cost Orangetown about $238,000 in 2012, a completely unanticipated expense.
Apparently, it is legal for the County to “charge-back” Orangetown for the cost difference in tuition when Orangetown residents attend more expensive SUNY community colleges outside Rockland County. But if our goal is government financial accountability, it makes no sense to have one local government footing the bill (Orangetown), while another (the County) oversees the program. Since it is not paying the bill, the County has little incentive to run the program more cost effectively. For its part, the Town pays the bills, but cannot exercise any direct management control, nor does it have any particular interest or expertise in the financing of college education.
So this kind of “charge-back,” or “cost-shifting” maneuver is a recipe for more bad budget management by the County, while accomplishing nothing more than transferring a cost from one tax bill onto another. Some might say, “What difference does it make, since ultimately the money comes from the same taxpayers?” But taxpayers have the right to hold government accountable for spending, and this is harder to do when one government is paying for a program run by another government.
County government is in the middle of a great reconciliation of budget to reality. Cost-shifting of college tuition, elections and other programs to the Towns, without doing anything to improve the programs in question, is a step in the wrong direction.