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Letter: Mandated programs need another look

Editor, The Spotlight:

Mandates are requirements by federal or state governments which local governments and school districts must implement. The cost of these directives falls primarily upon taxpayers.

The New York State Association of Counties estimates just nine mandates exhaust 90 percent of the entire county property tax levy collected statewide. Mandated and fixed employee costs can consume more than 80 percent of a county’s total budget, leaving fewer dollars for local programs and services.

As the ranking minority member in the Albany County Legislature’s Social Services Committee, I witness first- hand the inability of state government to oversee many mandated programs, as well as the organizations selected to administer them.

The Albany County Legislature recently dealt with an issue that involved contracting with New York State certified agencies to oversee mandated early intervention and pre-school programs. Despite the inadequacies mentioned below, the state still continues to certify these organizations.

Achievements LLC of Latham has been referred to law enforcement for appropriate action. The director and her husband, who is the group’s business director, were cited for using public money to pay for vacations, including Disney World, a dishwasher and home entertainment center installed in their home, a cruise, tickets to concerts and annual membership fees to a family recreation center.

The audit also found that between 2005 and 2010 they submitted $66,225 in excessive charges to lease office space in a building they owned.

Another group, Capital District Beginnings of Troy, billed more than $831,000 for “…unnecessary, unallowable, or undocumented…” personal and non-personal services over two fiscal years.

Why are municipalities directed by the state to deal with organizations cited for misappropriation of taxpayer dollars? If the state is forcing us to fulfill mandates, it should at least discontinue certifying organizations that have been cited for misappropriation of funds.

Mandated programs must be reviewed, amended and some even eliminated. Taxpayers simply cannot afford this uncontrolled spending of their tax dollars.

Patrice Schwarz Lockart

Albany County legislator, 26th District

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