Bill in State Senate committee could create issues for Catt. Co.

LITTLE VALLEY – It is no secret that Cattaraugus County lawmakers have been looking into ways to save money in the operation of the two county-run nursing homes. A proposal in the state Senate would make that effort a bit harder, forcing more unfunded mandates on county coffers, according to one county leader.

State Senate Bill 7291, a plan circulating the legislative committees of the state, would place a moratorium on any kind of decrease on reduction of services in county-operated nursing homes, according to Cattaraugus County Administrator John R. “Jack” Searles.

“This bill, first of all, represents another unfunded mandate,” Searles said. “It is also a disproportional mandate between counties that have nursing homes and those that do not.”

In addition to the proportionality of the bill, when coupled with property tax cap and tax freeze, as proposed under the governor’s budget, would create a larger burden on the taxpayers, Searles said.

Searles said he has contacted state Sen. Catharine Young’s (R,I,C, Olean, 57th District) office about the plan.

“She assured me that the plan would not be making out of committee to the full floor,” Searles said. “I did tell her that, if this is going to pass, fine, but we need a reprieve in the tax cap or the tax freeze. We need a way to make the county whole again, and that would be to the tune of $5 million.”

Searles said the bill was very quick-moving when it was introduced, with the close of the legislative session at hand, a last-minute action to pass through.

Cattaraugus County is one of only two counties in New York to operate more than one nursing home, Searles said, adding, “That makes the disproportion more significant.”