CATSKILL — County lawmakers approved the 2021 contract with Twin County Recovery Service on Wednesday night, after initial concerns the county would have to make up the difference from a proposed 20% state aid cut.
Lawmakers also had concerns about a $19,000 increase in the contract and if services had been reduced due to the pandemic.
“I see they’re raising their budget this year,” Legislator Greg Davis, R-Greenville, said at the Health Services Committee meeting. “All I’ve heard on the news this whole year is that substance abuse users have been having problems because services have been cut, so why is the budget going up?”
Services have not been cut at this point, Greene County Director of Mental Health Jason Fredenberg said.
“At this point their services have not gone down yet,” he said. “They are poised to be reduced depending on what happens with this 20% withhold.”
Davis questioned the budget increase.
“Last year we paid $661,000,” he said. “This year it’s going up to $680,000. My understanding is substance abuse services, all of the in-person was cut, so basically the budget should be going down, not up.”
The increase was due to a cost-of-living adjustment, Fredenberg said.
“It can’t be raises, right?” Legislator Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie, said.
“I would hope not,” Legislator Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, added.
The increase is not up to the county, Fredenberg said.
“What I’m being told is that it’s not at our discretion,” he said. “The state awards it to them for fringe increases.”
Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, expressed concern about the services being provided.
“What percentage of this contract would you say was meant to be used for people to get these services but because of COVID, some of these services didn’t occur for them?” he asked. “We’re going to pay for an increase to the contract, but we don’t know if the people are going to get the services. We’re paying people their paychecks and fringe benefits and the end user, the addict, or whoever, needs the assistance isn’t getting the full service — is that what’s happening?” Fredenberg reiterated that services have not been reduced and that the funding increase isn’t up to the county.
“This is state aid money,” he said. “The county isn’t paying any of this.”
Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden agreed.
“The majority of this money is pass-through money,” he said. “We receive it as revenue and then expense it out.”
Bulich questioned what would happen if the county doesn’t get reimbursed the 20% from the state.
“We would not pay the full value of the contract each quarter,” Groden said. “If the 20% is going to be cut, we would not have paid that out to begin with.”
“We are only advancing 80% of each quarter,” he said. “We’re holding back 20%.”
The 20% being withheld each quarter comes to $18,442.
Davis asked what will happen if the 20% cut is made.
“Do we have to pay that then?” he asked.
“No,” Fredenberg replied. “And we can’t change the pass-through amount either.”
Hobart and Davis expressed support for the contract.
“I got it, so if the state can’t make it in the fiscal year, we’re not on the hook for this,” Hobart said.
“This is pass-through money,” he said. “If we don’t get it, we don’t pay it out.”
“As long as they don’t come and hold us accountable for that 20%, I will vote yes,” Davis said.
The full Legislature unanimously approved the contract Wednesday.