State Senator David Carlucci (D-New City) was joined by town supervisors from Clarkstown, Orangetown, Haverstraw, Stony Point and the Ramapo town attorney on Friday to announce a mandate relief bill to alleviate out-of-county tuition costs. The measure would also prevent counties from imposing community college charge-back fees on towns and cities.
Current state law allows counties to pass along the costs of out-of-county tuition to towns and cities. The pending legislation would prevent that. Rockland County officials have proposed passing along $1.8 million in chargeback costs for out-of-county tuition to the five towns.
“This is obviously a step from the county in the wrong direction,” said Carlucci.
Carlucci explained the legislation would provide real mandate relief by saving the county $1 million in tuition costs.
“This is $1 million that would be picked up by the State of New York,” said Carlucci. “This is real mandate relief.”
It would require the state to assume the costs of the charge-back fees for Rockland residents enrolled in the baccalaureate and masters degree programs at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). It is the only community college in the state’s community college network that offers upper division degrees. Like other community colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) system, FIT offers associates degrees.
Rockland accounts for 10 percent of the total FIT costs statewide. The bill would have the state government pick up $10 million of costs across the state.
The Senate’s Higher Education Committee approved Carlucci’s bill, which he said has bipartisan support. Assembly members Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) and Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) will introduce similar legislation in the Assembly.
Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack said the county’s charge-back proposal, which would cost Clarkstown $580,00, was one of the most unfair things the county executive and legislature could do to the towns.
“This is simply shifting their costs and their problems to the towns,” said Gromack. “Town governments are not the sponsors of Rockland Community College. Rockland Community College is sponsored and run by the county of Rockland and the county board of trustees. Towns have nothing to do with it.”
In Orangetown’s case, the county’s chargeback would cost it $233,000. Orangetown Town Supervisor Andy Stewart said that would penalize the town by forcing it to pay for something that it has nothing to do with.
“The towns have taken responsibility and are solvent and we want to stay way, focus on our mission which is taking care of the quality of life, of the kids, the parks, the highways, the safety issues and so on that we’re supposed to deal with,” explained Stewart. “This idea of a has nothing to do with what towns are set up to take care of.”
Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips, whose town would be charged $170,000, said the county is trying to pass along this expense after the local governments passed their budgets.
“It’s not right,” said Phillips. “Basic accounting principles (are) if you receive the revenues you have the expense.”
Rockland County receives the difference in tuition for out-of-county students who attend Rockland Community College. That revenue is not shared with the towns.
He predicted an even tougher future if the county continues to push expenses onto the towns.
“All of us could be looking at new expenditures and loss of revenue that exceed the two percent tax cap,” Phillips said.
Stony Point Supervisor Geoff Finn said his town was not prepared for the potential additional expense of $157,000.
Ramapo Town Attorney Michael Klein described the county’s act to pass along the expense as “deceiving.”
Issues like this have a tremendous affect on the town of the Ramapo,” he said, estimating the fees could be as high as $600,000.
SUNY and FIT have both issued memorandums of support for the proposed legislation to amend the education law. The bill would phase in the takeover of cost. As of March 31, 2012, the state would pay 50 percent of the cost and by June 1, 2013, the state will make the remaining 50 percent payment to FIT. By June 1, 2014, the state would pay 100 percent of the cost.