State budget includes funding cuts

ALBANY – Local agencies advocating for the developmentally disabled will take a financial hit with the final adopted state budget, which includes $90 million in aid cuts statewide for the programs.

Lexington Center in Fulton County and Liberty in Montgomery County – the area chapters of the NYSARC that supports people with disabilities – are affected by the reductions.

“That’s a very big cut for us,” Lexington Executive Director Shaloni Winston said today. She estimated the cuts at $3.7 million for Lexington.

She said Lexington has enacted a hiring freeze for non-direct support positions and is studying all aspects of its operation. She said 75 percent of Lexington’s budget is for personnel services.

“You can’t have that big of a budget cut without an effect,” Winston said.

She said she can’t say yet if group homes or other Lexington facilities will have to close. She said her administration and the Lexington board continue to analyze the fiscal situation. Lexington employs more than 1,000 people.

“We are working on it,” Winston said.

Liberty Director of Public Relations and Development Barbara Wool said today the budget cuts will be substantial.

“Obviously, it will be a hit of over $1 million [for Liberty],” she said. “We probably won’t fill vacancies. We’ll try to avoid layoffs. We’re still evaluating it.”

Wool said Liberty will try to be more efficient with what it has and “try to do whatever we can to avoid an impact on programs.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had proposed a $120 million cut to the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities’ program, which cares for developmentally disabled youths and adults in group homes. In amendments to his original budget proposal, Cuomo proposed a 6 percent reduction in funding to the not-for-profit providers. The 6 percent reduction had been proposed after a $500 million budget gap was created due to a reduction in what the federal government will pay the state to care for the developmentally disabled under Medicaid. Federal officials had recently concluded the state was being reimbursed too much for some Medicaid costs.

The $120 million eventually was reduced to $90 million in cuts after an effort Thursday by Republicans and some Democrats in the Assembly majority to restore the funding failed.

Winston said the state aid rates continue to go down for ARCs such as Lexington, and the latest state budget cut is on top of $4.5 million in reductions in 2010.

Liberty Chief Executive Officer Mike Decker said in a March 7 news release that the cuts would be in addition to a 6.5 percent funding cut Liberty received in 2011.