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County execs urge state to reconsider cuts

Nearly a week before Gov. David Paterson is scheduled to release the 2009 budget, executives from several counties across the state met to discuss the hardships their constituencies could face should the governor impose additional funding cuts.

Counties represented at the meeting, which took place Friday, Dec. 5, at the New York State County Executives Association office in Albany, included Yates, Suffolk, Broome, Chautauqua, Chemung, Erie, Monroe, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Rensselaer, Rockland and Westchester.

Albany County Executive Mike Breslin, who was scheduled to speak at the event, was absent due to an illness, but in a later interview, he expressed the need for all of the counties to come together to urge the state not to impose more cuts.

I would say that we are all in a situation where our economy is pressing on our ability to deliver services to people who desperately need it, said Breslin.

Kerri Battle, director of communications for the Albany County executive, said those services are the ones most at risk.

"Essentially, often what happens when the state is in a fiscal crisis, is that often they cut [funding for services], but they still expect the counties to do those services," said Battle. "So the counties got together to tell the state, 'If you're going to make cuts, don't make them so that the counties suffer.'"

Battle said two major services that could be most affected are mental health services and living expenses for foster families.

According to Breslin, the county has already seen a 3 percent decrease in state funding for various services throughout the county, and he said he is worried that the state is planning to cut more in response to the state's current fiscal crisis.

"We have managed with very small tax increases this year. In the face of increasing Medicare costs, state aid costs and inflationary rises in things like salt and asphalt, we've at times struggled to roughly hold our own. But we know that all signs are saying that it's going to get worse, and we want to know that the state understands that," said Breslin.

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