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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, December 9, 2010
Will mission of Victims Center be maintained?
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
ALBANY COUNTY The county legislature has come up with a spending plan for next year that is vastly different than the $550 million budget proposal made by county Executive Michael Breslin in October.
Monday night, the legislature passed its plan by a vote of 36 to 2. It also passed, by unanimous vote, a resolution put forward by Bryan Clenahan, a Democrat who represents Westmere, that the Albany County Crime Victims and Sexual Violence Center “be maintained without reduction or diminution.”
Giving an overview of the legislators’ plan, Clenahan said that they plan to lay off just 33 workers and to keep the county nursing home running. Breslin’s budget would cut 500 jobs, a fifth of the county workforce, and would close the nursing home.
“He laid off more middle-income workers,” said Clenahan. “We laid off more upper management.”
While Breslin anticipated a nearly 15-percent increase in county property taxes, the legislature, Clenahan said, figures on a 5-percent hike.
Asked how there could be such a wide difference, Clenahan said, “We had different ideas of revenue estimates.”
Mary Duryea, communications director at the county executive’s office, when asked about Breslin’s views of the legislators’ proposal, said, “He is still in the process of review. He has until Dec. 12 if he opts to veto.”
When Breslin proposed his budget, he said that a $40 million decrease in revenues was largely due to a $7.1 million decline in sales tax revenue, an $8.3 million loss in federal aid to the nursing home, another $7.4 million in other federal aid, a loss of $5.2 million when stimulus money runs out, a decline of $1.9 million in state aid, and a reduction of $1.5 million in Medicaid reimbursement.
Asked yesterday if Breslin still believed those figures to be solid, or if the legislators’ estimate could be valid, Duryea said, “We have concerns about the revenue streams.”
When Breslin presented his budget, he chided the legislators for not implementing the budget he had proposed last year. “If we had implemented my proposed budget in 2010,” Breslin said in his statement, “we would instead be facing a 4- to 5-percent tax increase. Unfortunately, the budget adopted by the county legislature simply postponed difficult decisions.”
Clenahan’s resolution outlines the services currently provided by the Crime Victims and Sexual Violence Center :
Support, information and confidential counseling and therapy for victim of sexual assault;
Court advocacy and assistance to crime victims and their families;
Educational programs for civic, academic, business, and professional groups in Albany County as well as special programs for parents, teachers, and youth; and
A volunteer program that includes a 24-hour rape crisis hotline and accompaniment of sexual assault victims to emergency rooms and police stations.
The resolution says that Breslin’s proposal would “cripple” the center and compromise its essential services.
Breslin’s proposal would continue victim assistance services and therapy but would focus instead on helping people in the midst of a crisis, with counseling for three months or 12 visits. Victims in need of long-term, ongoing services would be referred to other providers.
The center had offered free services to anyone who needed them regardless of when the person had been victimized. (For the full story on the center’s services, go online to www.altamontenterprise.com and look under regional archives for Oct. 7, 2010.)
Breslin’s budget cuts the post of deputy director, one therapist, and one administrative aid a decrease in funding of about 35 percent.
Funding for the center has increased steadily over the last dozen years, from about $590,000 in 1998 to just under a million dollars this year about half of it from the county and the other half from state and federal grants.
The legislators’ proposal, adopted Monday, does not replace two center staffers who took early retirement. One of them is the deputy director who also oversaw the volunteers. The legislators’ plan creates a part-time post to oversee the volunteers, said Clenahan; it also puts back in an aid and a therapist.
The aid is needed to track data, he said, which is essential for obtaining grants that fund the program.
Clenahan concluded that Breslin’s proposal “changed the mission of the center.”
Asked if the legislators would be willing to compromise, Clenahan said, “It’s really up to the executive now.”
When Duryea was asked yesterday if Breslin would consider the legislators’ proposal for the center, she said, “He’s considering all of the changes.”
Asked in October if Breslin would consider reinstating some of the posts cut from the center, Duryea had said, “He’s proposed a budget that he feels is equitable and makes necessary cuts to meet a $40 million loss in revenues….He feels this makes the hard choices that needed to be made.”