By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — Representatives from various Western New York counties came to The Pillars Estates Friday to discuss joint measures they all support and receive an update on what is likely to happen in Albany following the election.
The Inter County Association of Western New York contains members from 19 counties. They share many of the same concerns — the cost of governing, interest in enticing business and mandate relief.
That last issue, one that is focused on in seemingly every budget discussion across the state, is one that must continue to be pressed, Patrick Cummings, who serves as a legal counsel to the New York State Association of Counties, told the group.
“There’s strong rumors (that the state legislature) will come back in late November and December to vote on a legislative pay increase increase in exchange for Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo’s requests,” Cummings said. “What has not been mentions is further mandate relief ... we have to keep the pressure up.”
Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who spoke at the meeting following Rep. Kathy Hochul’s appearance, confirmed that the legislature may come back later this year, with most members enticed by their self-interest.
“I’m hearing that we will have a single bill — with minimum wage increases, mandate relief, medical marijuana and a pay raise for legislators,” said Hawley, who predicted later that the measure would easily pass the Democratic-held Assembly but need significant tweaking to pass the Republican-held Senate.
Hochul, stopping in before heading to an event headlined by President Bill Clinton, spoke on the need for an extension to the Farm Bill, but also focused on local efforts. Hochul said that she was impressed by the cross-county push for broadband access expansion in Orleans and Niagara counties.
“We stand up for our people in our communities,” Hochul, formerly the Erie County Clerk, said. “I know so much more can be achieved when we work together.”
The message of working together carried on in the keynote of the brunch meeting, when Albion Central School District Grants Manager Sue Starkweather took to the stage to highlight the successful partnership between the school and the county.
Starkweather briefed the crowd of county officials, which included more than 50 clerks, legislators and other officials, on efforts like the Community As School program at the Villages of Orleans nursing facility and the Alms House Cemetery project.
In those cases, and in the 124 internships at county departments over 14 years, Starkweather said that both high-achieving students and those who are disconnected in their regular classroom activities benefit from exposure to potential careers and the county’s history and assets.
“This is really a successful partnership,” Starkweather said. “It tells students they can make a difference.”
The Inter County Assoc. meets regularly throughout the year to discuss issues where a unified front may sway state legislation. Among the issues brought up in recent months were resolutions opposing a Thruway toll increase for commercial vehicles and the International Joint Commission’s Bv7 plan; and in support of an act that would prevent public assistance funds from being used to purchase alcohol, tobacco and lottery products.
The main topic of discussion Friday were the resolutions opposing increases in community college chargebacks — the funds paid by each county for each student enrolled at community colleges.
The group is asking the state to reconsider how community colleges are funded, but tabled the joint resolution after agreeing that the colleges face many of the same financial hurdles that counties are staring at this budget season.
“(The community colleges) face some of the same cost drivers, like pensions and healthcare,” Genesee County Legislature Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock, said. “All of us want community colleges that represent our areas. I’m hoping that our resolution can (express that).”