Town supervisors across Rockland County say they’re none too pleased to be paying charge-backs for local community collegestudents who go somewhere other than Rockland Community College.
The issue arose last month when the county Legislature approved a charge-back to raise $1.8 million in revenue.
Under the current system, the county pays the resident fee for studentswho attend community colleges outside Rockland.
Those fees will now pass to the towns where the students live.
The Town of Orangetown got hit with a bill for approximately $232,000 for out-of-county tuition costs.
“It’s absolutely preposterous,” Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart said Monday. “College education is not in the charter or the mission of town government. We run summer camps. We don’t do college education.”
The charge-back is part the county’s drastic and far-reaching plan to close the $95 million budget deficit and to fund operations through this year.
Other steps include imposing a new 4 percent residential energy tax, charging towns for election costs, a funding cut to the Sheriff’s Intelligence Unit and layoffs of 102 county workers.
When students from other counties attend RCC, those counties have to pay charge-backs.
RCC received about $3.2 million in 2011. Town officials are now asking whether the revenue could be used to reimburse the towns. The issue was raised Thursday during a conference call involving several town supervisors, RCC President Cliff Wood and SUNY representatives.
“They can’t have it both ways,” said Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack, who took part in the call. “If they want to shift the costs, then they need to share the revenue.”
Clarkstown faces about $580,000 in charge-backs; the Town of Haverstraw is on the hook for approximately $150,000.
Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips said that while the charge-backs were not big enough to put a dent in the county’s deficit, they could push Haverstraw’s $37.4 million budget to the breaking point.
“This is just foolishness on the part of the county,” he said. “They are in tremendous debt and now they want to inflict it on the towns.”
Another sore point is that approximately $1 million of the charge-backs is for students attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. While FIT is considered part of the community college system, it offers baccalaureate and master’s degrees.
Meanwhile, Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, is pursuing legislation to prohibit Rockland and other counties from charging back.
He wants the state to take over that cost, bringing mandate relief to the county.
Charge-backs have become the subject of controversy in Suffolk and Nassau counties. In 2011, the Town of North Hempstead sued Nassau over FIT charge-backs.