The state is picking up the costs for the growth in Medicaid over the next several years, but counties said they need more help.
One answer, according to the state Association of Counties, is the state taking over counties’ cost for pre-school special education programs. The program provides services to children with disabilities aged 3 through 5.
In a quirk in state law, counties pay a portion of the education cost, about $1 billion a year total. The group said that New York is the only state that requires counties to pay a share of the program.
“This is an egregious mandate. Counties do not have education departments—we are not in the business of education—yet we devote nearly $1 billion in local tax dollars to the State’s Preschool Special Education Program each year,” Orange County Executive Edward Diana, the association’s president, said in a statement.
Counties said they have no role in how the program is administered, but have to fund it.
The costs of the program, which was started in 1989, have increased. It initially cost about $96 million annually. Now it’s up to nearly $2 billion and serves about 75,000 children.
“There have been many proposals to fix this program, but they have all failed to be enacted,” said Stephen Acquario, the group’s president, in a statement. “With this report, we continue to press for reforms that will help the children being served and relieve the taxpayers funding these vital services.”