Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart will join three other town supervisors 12 p.m. Friday at the Clarkstown Town Hall for a press conference organized by Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland).
Carlucci will announce his support of a mandate relief bill currently in the Senate that would make the state pay a portion of community college tuition costs normally paid by Rockland County. The bill would also stop the county from enacting charge-back fees to its towns.
Last month the Rockland County Legislature approved the use of charge-back fees
The Rockland County Legislature passed a resolution last month which allows the county to "charge-back" towns for college tuition, which will net the Rockland government about $1.8 million in 2012.
Currently, the county reimburses community colleges outside of Rockland for the non-resident tuition of students from Rockland County who attend them. State education law allows the county to charge back the towns for this expense.
The legislature also approved charging the towns for full election expenses for 2012.
"Last month the Rockland County Legislature, for the first time ever, implemented these charge-back fees as a way to shift their financial obligations onto the backs of the Towns," read the press release from Carlucci's office Wednesday. "As a result, Towns have been hit with a massive expense that many view as unaffordable and will wind up costing taxpayers. This decision comes on the heels of Rockland County’s drastic and far-reaching plan to close their $95 million dollar budget deficit."
The Orangetown Town Council has been critical of the move in this blog by Stewart and at last week's town workshop meeting. They continued the discussion as part of Tuesday's regular town board meeting.
Stewart said the tuition reimbursement alone would cost Orangetown approximately $230,000 in its 2012 budget.
"It doesn't bode well for the financial management at the county level to pass off these program costs," Stewart said. "It is something that really has nothing to do with town governments. We run summer camps, but we don't do college financing."
"It isn't a charge-back," Councilman Tom Diviny said. "It's a tax. They are taxing us. They are making money off other counties. It is misleading to say it is a charge-back. They don't want to balance their budget. They want us to pay to balance it.
"The election, we are actually paying for services provided. I don't have as much of a problem with that. I wish we had more notice. But the community colleges, to me, it's crazy for them to be doing that."
Councilman Denis Troy said part of the problem is that the county refuses to play conservatively when it comes to revenue, as Orangetown does, often leaving itself with a shortfall.
"What happens now is the towns are paying the price for them not doing a good job budgeting and projecting the expenses and projecting the revenue," Troy said. "Not only is it happening in 2012, it's happening in June of 2012. We budget and get halfway through the year and they are adding ($500,000) to $600,000. That's crazy. Particularly the colleges. That one kills me."
Troy said the issue with the election costs is more of a matter of timing. At different times, the towns or the county has paid those costs.
"You want to change it for 2013? Be my guest and change it for 2013," Troy said. "Then we can do budgeting and you can do budgeting. But to do it in June 2012 is absurd. Really what they are doing is throwing us a concrete anchor and putting it around our necks and I don't know if it is going to save them or not."
Councilman Tom Morr agreed that Orangetown has done a better job of being more conservative in its budgets.
"The college tuition is a sign of desperation," Morr said. "I'd love to be in the meeting when somebody called for this."