By Marcello Iaia
ALBANY COUNTY — Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy announced yesterday he would not go forward with his threatened veto of the budget passed, 28 to 11, by the Democrat-dominated legislature on Dec. 3.
According to Democratic county legislator, Bryan Clenahan, who represents Guilderland, Majority Leader Frank Commisso gave him an estimate of $578 million for the 2013 spending plan, an increase of $10 million from McCoy’s proposal.
A week earlier, local Republican legislator Deborah Busch, who represents the Hilltowns, gained attention at a town board meeting when she lamented the legislature’s failure to lease the county nursing home to a private company, Upstate Services Group, as proposed by McCoy.
The adopted budget increases taxes by 7.6 percent, instead of McCoy’s 8.9 percent, and puts millions of dollars in an additional year of contingency funding for the nursing home.
In his concession announcement, McCoy insisted the nursing home still needs to be privatized.
“That is the only way we will be able to craft a budget that comes in under the tax cap, while ensuring the long-term stability of our finances,” he said in a release. The state capped the levy increase at 2 percent.
Busch, legislator for the 39th District, spoke to Westerlo residents at a Dec. 4 board meeting, saying that she voted “no” on the county budget because she did not want to override the cap set by state law.
Busch favors privatizing the nursing home, and had said McCoy would likely not go ahead with his threatened veto if the legislature agrees to privatization.
An Albany County Medical Center nurse manager who works on the center’s committee for elder care, Busch said it sometimes takes two weeks for a response from the nursing home after she requests a patient be placed, and that the home is not at full capacity.
“They can have 250 patients in the nursing home. Their average is about 210 patients,” said Busch.
Clenahan, from District 30, said, while he wants to keep the nursing home under the county, the issue of empty beds needs to be looked at.
“We’ve been told that some patients need a single room. I think that’s accurate to a point,” said Clenahan, indicating mental illness was given as the reason. “I think the administration of the nursing home has not done enough to make sure the beds are filled.”
Clenahan believes there are ways to reduce costs and generate revenue, but the effort to keep the nursing home open throughout a protracted debate, he said, has prevented a serious look at various efficiency measures.
“We can increase rehabilitation services, and increase revenue that way,” said Clenahan. “We don’t really have anyone pursuing federal and state grants. We should be looking at the possibility of adult day care.”
Mary Lou Bartolotta-Connolly, a Democratic County legislator from the 32nd District in Guilderland who voted for the budget, suggested federal funding be used to create affordable housing for seniors on the top floor of the nursing home. Leasing spaces on the first floor, she said, could provide additional revenue.
“Let’s find medical associations and organizations who could use the first floor for offices so we don’t have to bring those on in the nursing home levels outside of the facility,” Connolly said on Wednesday. “Let them be treated in the first floor and open it to the public.”