County will cap its payments to community colleges with towns to pick up some of the cost for the first time

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 October 2020 at 9:52 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Genesee Community College is shown at the main campus in Batavia in this photo from Feb. 13, 2018.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature for the first time is capping its contribution to community colleges and any amount over that will be passed on to the towns.

The county will cap its share to community colleges at $2,050,000 beginning in 2021, Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, advised town officials on Tuesday.

The Legislature already had sent notice to the towns. The topic was discussed on Tuesday evening during the Orleans County Association of Municipalities.

The county will be spending $2,240,251 for community colleges this year. That is $190,251 over the cap it will be setting. The county will pay the full amount this year, but starting in 2021 the towns will pay any local cost over the $2,050,000.

Johnson said the town share will be based on credit hours of residents in those towns. Based on the data in 2019/2020, the additional $190,251 overages for each town would be $40,384 in Albion, $8,283 for Barre, $14,105 in Carlton, $15,040 in Clarendon, $14,096 in Gaines, $9,063 in Kendall, $21,020 in Murray, $34,297 in Ridgeway, $22,198 in Shelby and $11,760 in Yates.

Community colleges were supposed to be funded with the state paying a third, the student paying a third, and the local town/county paying the other third.

But Johnson said the state has pulled back on its contribution, putting more pressure on students and local municipalities.

The County Legislature this afternoon is scheduled to pass a resolution calling on the state to increase funding for community colleges. The Legislature also is scheduled to vote on setting a cap at $2,050,000 for community colleges.

“We just had to draw the line,” Johnson said.

Most community college students from Orleans go to Genesee Community College. But Orleans County has paid towards local students who attend other community colleges in the state, and some are far more costly than GCC, including the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Sean Pogue, the Barre town supervisor, said the college costs will be difficult for towns, who are stressed to stay under the state-imposed tax cap which is about 2 percent.

“We don’t have any money to play with,” Pogue responded to Johnson. “We’re already at the 2 percent increase. I don’t have any room for this.”

Johnson said the county kept the towns and villages whole with their share of local sales tax. And the county will still be paying about 90 percent of the local community college cost share, based on 2020 numbers.

There is a chance the local share will be under the $2,050,000 county cap next year and the towns won’t have to pay towards the cost.

“There is no way to tell what 2021 will do,” Johnson said. “Will more people go to college? I hope they do. The Orleans County Legislature values our residents expanding their knowledge base.”

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