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Amended Albany County budget discussed at public hearing

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Albany/HV: Amended Albany County budget discussed at public hearing
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The Albany County legislature hosted its second public meeting to discuss the 2013 budget. At the center of the budget discussion is the future of the county nursing home, an issue that's brought out some strong opinions. Our Innae Park was at the meeting and has more on the progress that has been made.

ALBANY, N.Y. – “We had to move forward with a budget that's fair and equitable for all,” said Raymond Joyce, a member of the Albany County Legislature’s Audit and Finance committee.
With that in mind, the legislature submitted a budget that would fund the county nursing home for a full year. That's against the wishes of County Executive Dan McCoy, who proposed funding it for six months and then leasing it to the private Upstate Services Group.

That proposal led to an outcry from the community.

Renee Barchitta of the Albany County Nursing Home Core Family Council said, “We believe it's the right thing to do, so nothing else is acceptable.”

However, even with the news of the full year's funding, the cries against privatizing the county facility continued at a public hearing Tuesday night, since negotiations are still in the works.

“We need to fully understand how Upstate Services Group runs their nursing homes compared to the care we've provided all these years for the county nursing home,” said Joyce.

With time ticking, legislators allotted the funds as a contingency plan - in case talks fall through. That is a real possibility, as they say obtaining a certification of need, similar to a license, to run the nursing home, could take a year.

No lease agreement has been drawn yet. However, McCoy has proposed a $12 million loan to USG. Yet that may lead to another obstacle.

Joyce said, “There's some concerns among the legislators, myself included, whether it's legal, according to the New York State constitution, which doesn't allow towns, cities, municipalities to offer private loans to private companies.”

The county attorney is investigating this possibility, and the legislature has asked the Attorney General’s office to also take a look.

The legislature's amendments to the budget also cut 14 new positions proposed by McCoy, in order to make way for the nursing home funding. McCoy has threatened to veto the legislature’s changes.

The county has until December 8th to approve its budget. A county legislature vote is expected next Monday, December 4th. The legislators would have to approve an override of the state-mandated tax cap, since both budgets have an 8.9 percent tax hike.

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