Audit&Finance20051026

Audit&Finance20051026

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Honorable Charles E. Houghtaling, Jr. and Members of the Albany County Legislature: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: The Audit and Finance Committee of the Albany County Legislature met on October 26, 2005. Chairperson Commisso, Messrs. Domalewicz, Houghtaling, Joyce, Monjeau, Riddick and Ms. Benedict were present. Mr. Dawson and Ms. Comella were excused. The following items were discussed and/or acted upon: Approving Previous Meeting Minutes: Unanimously approved. 1. Authorizing an Agreement Regarding Single Provider Services to Administer the County’s Health Insurance Plan: Human Resources Commissioner Robert Conway, Deputy Commissioner Cathy Connors and the County’s insurance consultant, Stephen Locey, appeared before the Committee. The Committee was informed that the Personnel Committee earlier in the evening discussed the proposal at length before tabling it. The Audit and Finance Committee also voted unanimously to table the proposal. 2. Authorizing Agreements Regarding Participation in the Verifying NY Program to Combat Medicaid Fraud and Abuse in Albany County and Amending the 2005 Albany County Budget: County Comptroller Michael Conners informed the Committee he is pursuing an RFP for the purchase of a computer program to identify Medicaid provider fraud. The State next year will reimburse counties 100% of the cost of computer hardware to target Medicaid fraud. The County Executive also has incorporated a plan in his 2006 proposed budget to ...

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Honorable Charles E. Houghtaling, Jr. and Members of the Albany County
Legislature:
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
The Audit and Finance Committee of the Albany County Legislature met on
October 26, 2005. Chairperson Commisso, Messrs. Domalewicz, Houghtaling, Joyce,
Monjeau, Riddick and Ms. Benedict were present. Mr. Dawson and Ms. Comella
were excused. The following items were discussed and/or acted upon:
Approving Previous Meeting Minutes: Unanimously approved.
1. Authorizing an Agreement Regarding Single Provider Services to Administer the
County’s Health Insurance Plan:
Human Resources Commissioner Robert
Conway, Deputy Commissioner Cathy Connors and the County’s insurance
consultant, Stephen Locey, appeared before the Committee. The Committee was
informed that the Personnel Committee earlier in the evening discussed the
proposal at length before tabling it. The Audit and Finance Committee also
voted unanimously to table the proposal.
2. Authorizing Agreements Regarding Participation in the Verifying NY Program
to Combat Medicaid Fraud and Abuse in Albany County and Amending the 2005
Albany County Budget: County Comptroller Michael Conners informed the
Committee he is pursuing an RFP for the purchase of a computer program to
identify Medicaid provider fraud. The State next year will reimburse counties
100% of the cost of computer hardware to target Medicaid fraud. The County
Executive also has incorporated a plan in his 2006 proposed budget to set up a
fraud auditing system within the Department of Social Services. After further
discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to table the proposal.
3. Resolution No. 346: Public Hearing on Proposed Local Law No. “E” for 2005: The
Committee considered agenda item Nos. 3 and 4 together. Following a discussion
reported below, the Committee voted unanimously to table the resolution.
4. Local Law No. “E” for 2005: A Local Law of the County of Albany Amending
Local Law No. 6 for 1995 Authorizing Installment Payments of Delinquent Real
Property Taxes: Jeffrey Neal, Director of the Finance Division, and Anthony
DiLella, Deputy Director, were present to respond to questions. The proposal
would allow owners of non-residential properties to pay delinquent property
taxes in installments over two years, after an initial down payment of 20% of the
outstanding taxes due, to avoid foreclosure. A similar plan has been in effect for
owners of residential and farm properties since 1995. Residential properties are
defined as one, two and three-family and seasonal residences. A report prepared
by the Finance Division showed the Division this year has mailed tax
delinquency notices to the owners of 3,902 parcels of residential property and the
owners of 2,373 parcels of non-residential property. Mr. Commisso said the
proposal to extend the installment plan to owners of non-residential properties
would put the County in the position of serving as the banker for businesses and
corporations, in essence granting them loans to pay delinquent taxes and in the
process negatively impacting the County’s cash flow. Mr. DiLella told the
Committee that the County charges 12% on outstanding balances plus an initial
5% handling fee. He cautioned that if approved, the County would have to
accommodate any business which asks. Several legislators suggested that
owners of commercial properties should be limited to making use of the
installment plan only once. Mr. Monjeau, a sponsor of the local law, said he
agreed, but noted that the County is earning only 3-4% interest on its
investments, far less than the 17% it could get on the installment plan. After
further discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to table the resolution to
explore incorporating language to impose a one-time-only limit on non-
residential property owners.
5. Authorizing Special Hauling Permit Fees for Overweight and Oversize Vehicles
Using Albany County Roads: Michael Franchini, Commissioner of the
Department of Public Works, and Daniel Mirabile, Deputy Commissioner,
appeared before the Committee. The Department proposed to institute a $10
special hauling permit fee for overweight and oversize vehicles traveling on
Albany County roads, and a $50 per vehicle/per trip administrative fee, starting
January 1, 2006. The fees would apply to vehicles with a total gross weight of
more than 80,000 pounds, with a width of more than 8.5 feet, a height of more
than 13.5 feet and a length of more than 65 feet, such as rigs carrying mobile
homes and car trailers if over length. Mr. Franchini said about half of the
counties in New York State impose hauling permit fees and said the $20,000
estimated revenue it would produce is on the conservative side. He said the
revenue would relieve the burden on taxpayers who end up paying for repairing
damage to roads caused by these vehicles. As an example, he cited Cherry-Elm
Avenues in Bethlehem which required a complete reconstruction because of
damage by oversized trucks. In response to questions, Mr. Franchini said most of
the oversized vehicles are owned by out-of-county firms. Asked about
enforcement, Mr. Franchini said the State notifies counties when oversize
vehicles cross into the county. The Department would ask assistance from the
Sheriff to stop the trucks and to check for permits. After further review, the
Committee voted 6-1, with Mr. Monjeau voting in the negative, to table the
proposal for an assessment from Sheriff Campbell.
6. Local Law No. “F” for 2005: A Local Law of the County of Albany, New York
Amending Local Law No. 9 for 1996 as Amended by Local Law No. 9 for 1998
Adopting Chapter 256 of the Laws of New York for 2005, Amending Section 458-
a of the Real Property Tax Law Regarding Increasing the Maximum Tax
Exemptions for Veterans: The Local Law would give 15% property tax
exemptions to veterans for the first $36,000 assessment on their homes (up from
$27,000); 25% exemptions to combat veterans up to $60,000 (up from $45,000)
and 75% exemptions to disabled veterans up to $120,000 (up from $90,000).
After a brief review, the Committee voted unanimously to move the Local Law
forward for legislative action with a favorable recommendation.
7. Authorizing A Correction of the Assessment Roll for the City of Cohoes: After a
brief review, the Committee voted unanimously to move the proposal forward for
legislative action with a favorable recommendation.
8. Authorizing the Submission of a Grant Application Regarding the Motor Vehicle
Theft and Insurance Fraud Program: District Attorney David Soares appeared
before the Committee to respond to agenda item Nos. 8 through 13.
The
proposal would authorize submission of an application for renewal of a grant up
to $200,000 to pay the salaries of a full-time assistant district attorney, an
investigator and a paralegal to investigate and prosecute vehicle-related fraud
and auto theft schemes. After a brief review, the Committee voted unanimously
to move the proposal forward for legislative action with a favorable
recommendation.
9. Authorizing the Submission of a Grant Application Regarding the Aid to
Prosecution Program: Mr. Soares said he is seeking continuation of grant
funding in the amount of $174,417 to supplement the salaries of prosecutors
assigned to cases involving repeat violent and serious felony offenders. After
further discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to move the proposal
forward for legislative action with a favorable recommendation.
10.Authorizing the Submission of a Grant Application Regarding the Community
Response to Domestic Violence Team: The grant, for up to $41,760, would
supplement salaries for an assistant district attorney, a crime victims
caseworker and a Sheriff’s investigator assigned to the Domestic Violence Team.
Mr. Soares said no County match is required.
After further discussion, the
Committee voted unanimously to move the proposal forward for legislative
action with a favorable recommendation.
11.Authorizing the Submission of a Grant Application Regarding the Road to
Recovery Program: Mr. Soares sought permission to submit a grant application
along with the Department of Mental Health, due today, to the State Division of
Criminal Justice Services. The application requests up to $203,000 to continue
and to expand the Road to Recovery program targeting chemically-addicted non-
violent felony offenders with two or more felony arrests for treatment instead of
incarceration. Mr. Domalewicz noted that the Law Committee and the Health
Committee, on which he sits, heard conflicting information on costs the County
would assume by expanding the Road to Recovery program. Mr. Soares had told
the Law Committee on Oct. 24th that the $203,000 grant would not require a
County share, while Robin Siegal, Executive Director of the Department of
Mental Health, earlier in the evening informed the Health Committee that the
County would be responsible for $100,000-$140,000 for residential and
outpatient treatment costs for individuals accepted into the program. Mr.
Domalewicz also said he believes third time felony offenders belong in jail. Mr.
Soares said the grant would pay 100% of the cost of salaries and benefits for a
full-time Assistant District Attorney and a full-time substance abuse caseworker
from Mental Health.
Mr. Soares said the program “is about screening for
success” through treatment of alcohol and substance abuse addictions. He said
120 individuals currently are receiving services through the Albany County
Drug Court paid for by County funds. The County would receive funds for the
Road to Recovery program and those who are unsuccessful would be sentenced to
jail or prison, he said. Mr. Commisso suggested the Committee take up the issue
during its deliberations on the proposed 2006 County budget in light of the
conflicting information. Mr. Soares said in that case the two agencies would miss
the application deadline. Mr. Commisso said the Committee should be well
informed and questioned why Mr. Soares waited until the 11th hour to seek the
Committee’s permission to submit the grant application. Mr. Soares replied that
his office, Mental Health, Judge Stephen Herrick, who is in charge of the Drug
Court, and the County Executive’s Office did not reach agreement until the
previous week on how to proceed. After further discussion, the Committee voted
unanimously to move the proposal forward for legislative action with a favorable
recommendation, contingent upon receiving additional information that would
clarify the conflicting information regarding County costs for the program.
12.Amending the 2005 District Attorney’s Budget: Operation IMPACT Funding for
2005: The proposal would add $117,075 from a $468,300 IMPACT 2005 grant to
the 2005 budget to pay salaries and benefits for two new assistant district
attorney positions and add to the Fees for Services line. The remaining $351,225
from the grant is incorporated in the DA’s proposed 2006 budget. The majority
of the grant funding will be directed to paying overtime for Albany City Police
IMPACT teams assigned to target drug and handgun crimes and for Probation
officers accompanying the police. After further review, the Committee voted
unanimously to move the proposal forward for legislative action with a favorable
recommendation.
13.Authorizing a Lease Agreement Regarding 289 Clinton Avenue Pertaining to the
Community Prosecution Activities of the District Attorney’s Office: The District
Attorney sought approval of a one-year lease for 289 Clinton Avenue at $50 a
month to locate the Office of Community Prosecution. Mr. Soares said he earlier
in the week made a commitment to the Law Committee that he would secure
receipts from the landlord, Clinton Revival HDFC, that it had satisfied nearly
$1,400 in outstanding taxes or water and sewer bills on other properties it owns.
After further discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to move the proposal
forward for legislative action with a favorable recommendation, on the condition
that the authorizing resolution include language specifying that the lease
agreement is contingent upon submission of proof of payment of outstanding
property taxes or water and sewer charges on properties owned by Clinton
Revival HDFC within the County.
14.Amending the 2005 Albany County Budget: Legal Fees in the Alternate Public
Defender’s Office: Alternate Public Defender Gaspar Castillo appeared before
the Committee seeking approval for the transfer of $247,002 from various funds
to pay legal fees for 18-b assigned counsel through the end of 2005 over and
above the $425,000 incorporated in the budget. Most of the funds would come
from the A1990 Contingent Account and the rest from vacant positions. Mr.
Castillo said the bulk of 18-b assigned counsel vouchers originate from Family
Court, but said he expects the 18-b charges will drop next year with the addition
of two alternate public defenders proposed in the 2006 budget. Mr. Domalewicz
stated that the Legislature was told the Alternate Public Defender’s Office would
save the County money in outside attorney’s fees when the Office was created in
the 2004 budget. The Office was established in response to a new State fee
structure effective January 1st that year, paying assigned counsel $75 an hour
for felony cases and Family Court work and $60 an hour for misdemeanor cases.
Previously fees were set at $40 an hour for in-court work and $25 for out-of-court
work. Mr. Castillo said the combination of higher fees, payment of outstanding
charges from previous years and the discretion of Family Court judges in
assigning attorneys outside his office and the Public Defender’s Office influences
18-b costs. Despite this, Mr. Castillo said he is confident the County is saving
money. He noted that the County received $600,000 in state reimbursement this
year to make up for the increase in assigned counsel hourly rates. In response to
a suggestion that the Committee table the proposal to consider the request in
connection with the Committee’s deliberations on the proposed 2006 Budget,
John McPhillips, Senior Budget Analyst with the Department of Management
and Budget, said the County Comptroller could accommodate 18-b charges until
the Legislature acts on the request. After further discussion, the Committee
voted 6-1, with Mr. Monjeau voting in the negative, to table the proposal.
15.Authorizing an Agreement with the Governor’s Office for Small Cities Regarding
the United Cooperative Farmers, Inc. Project and Amending the 2005 Planning
Department Budget: County Operations Director Michael Perrin appeared
before the Committee. The proposal would accept a $541,000 Small Cities grant
on behalf of United Cooperative Farmers, Inc. to buy new machinery and provide
the working capital necessary to continue its Town of Guilderland operation in
Guilderland Center. After a brief review, the Committee voted unanimously to
move
the
proposal
forward
for
legislative
action
with
a
favorable
recommendation.
16.Authorizing the Conveyance of a Parcel of Real Property Located at 100 Michael
Drive in the Town of Colonie to the Nature Conservancy for Subsequent
Dedication to the Pine Bush Preserve: Mark Fitzsimmons, Director of the
Department of Economic Development, Conservation and Planning, appeared
before the Committee. The proposal would convey, for a $20,000 price, a 29.3-
acre parcel at 100 Michael Drive in the Town of Colonie to the Nature
Conservancy for inclusion in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Mr. Fitzsimmons
said in response to questions that the property, which he said is almost entirely
federal and state wetlands, was offered twice at County auction, without
successful conclusion. He said the property was once considered by the County
for wetlands mitigation in connection with nursing home construction. Mr.
Commisso said the property may be valuable to a developer who would pay big
money to use it to swap for wetland mitigation. Mr. Fitzsimmons said the rules
on wetland mitigation have changed and offered to speak with the Army Corps
of Engineers for clarification. After further discussion, the Committee voted
unanimously to table the proposal.
17.Amending the 2005 Board of Elections Budget: Salary Adjustment for a
Computer Information Specialist: Democratic Elections Commissioner James M.
Clancy appeared before the Committee. The proposal would address a $4,000
shortfall in a Computer Information Specialist personnel line for an employee
hired in July because of the payout of vacation time accumulations to a previous
employee. The shortfall would be covered by transferring $2,000 from each of
two vacant Election Specialist lines. After a brief review, the Committee voted
unanimously to move the proposal forward for legislative action with a favorable
recommendation.
Respectfully Submitted,
The AUDIT AND FINANCE COMMITTEE
FRANK J. COMMISSO, Chairperson
THOMAS R. MONJEAU
CHARLES E. HOUGHTALING, Jr.
RAYMOND F. JOYCE
CHARLES S. DAWSON, Jr.
CHRISTINE M. BENEDICT
GARY W. DOMALEWICZ
ANN M. COMELLA
FOWLER J. RIDDICK