JOHNSTOWN - A Fulton County Board of Supervisors' committee is protesting what board Chairman Jack Callery calls a "criminal" $170,690 bill from the state because the invoice goes back to services rendered in 2002.
The county Social Services Committee decided Thursday to have DSS Commissioner Sheryda Cooper pay the bill to the state Office of Children & Family Services in installments, instead of a lump sum as she recommended.
Cooper said OCFS operates placement facilities for youths ordered into state custody through county Family Court. DSS is responsible for half the cost of the placement in any state facility such as the Tryon Residential Center or Berkshire Farms.
"These are state-operated facilities [the state] contracts with or other providers," she said.
Cooper said the county is billed quarterly at an interim rate, and the bills are adjusted later after the actual cost for a particular billing period is calculated. The billing has been "historically slow," she said.
"We just got the bill with final rates adjusted back to 2002," Cooper said.
She said the total amount of the OCFS invoice recently received is $170,690, and that includes interim charges only up to the first quarter of last year.
"You can see how long it takes them to bill," Cooper said.
She said she has $97,084 available to pay toward the bill, which would leave a balance of $73,606.
"The state has allowed a payment plan, but I would prefer to pay it outright," Cooper said.
The committee voted to have Cooper use the payment plan process rather than pay the bill in full.
Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Michael R. Rooney said the county shouldn't give in to the state.
"I think we should send a message that it's not easy [for the county] to pay bills we're stuck with," he said.
Callery was visibly upset, referring to the slowness of the billing process as "criminal."
"I just can't believe they can do this," Callery said. "I don't even think this is legal."
Johnstown 1st Ward Supervisor Richard Handy, committee chairman, suggested the county can have County Attorney Arthur C. Spring send a "threatening letter" to OCFS. He said it "can't hurt" to have Spring investigate the matter and stay in touch with Cooper.
The DSS commissioner said the slowness of the billing is not new.
"This has been going on for a couple years," Cooper said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org