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Assemblywoman Destito holds budget hearings

By By GARY LIBERATORE

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, of Rome, held two separate budget hearings Friday regarding the state's looming budget process, and both were largely focused on school aid cuts.

The first hearing was held Friday morning at the South Rome Senior Center, the second at the North Utica Senior Center. Destito not only heard from the superintendents of several area school districts and school board presidents, but also from leaders of some of other entities across the state that will definitely be effected by this year's budget.

Among those speaking, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Catherine Hanover, V.P. of Government Relations for St. Elizabeth Hospital, Lisa Matte from the Jervis Public Library, Beth Irons from the Utica Zoo, Ron Thiele from the Stanley Performing Arts Center and as mentioned, numerous superintendents from area school districts.

Whitesboro School Superintendent Dave Langone said the Governor's proposed budget means a cut of $3.4 million to his district.

"This translates to dozens of teaching, non-instructional and supervisory jobs being reduced in 2010-2011," Langone said.

Langone that in order to make up for those cuts, Whitesboro residents would have to face a 14 percent property tax increase to make up for that $3.4 million deficit.

Destito said proposed healthcare and school cuts are the two cuts she's been hearing about the most, even before these scheduled hearings. She said that she is in favor of school district consolidation, but not actually closing schools.

"If you merge them and close the buildings, you would have children on school buses for a long time," Destito said. "And I don't think that is healthy or safe. But the fact is that merging administrations, using joint efforts that provide some of the services, especially the administrative services, I think could save us money and be very helpful."

Destito said she has talked with numerous superintendents about the possibility of merging with other districts.

Destito said the state budget deficit of more than $9 billion will also mean cuts to healthcare. As the cost of healthcare continues to go up, many wonder how hospitals and nursing homes will continue to operate with lowered medicaid reimbursement, and higher taxes that are in the Governor's proposed budget.

Catherine Hanover, V.P. of Government Relations for St. Elizabeth Medical Center gave Destito a specific example of how much money it costs for medications that it is not getting reimbursed for by the state.

"For example, Rome Hospital uses a drug calls Retivase," Hanover said. "This clot-busting drug is given to patients who are given a heart attack upon their arrival in the emergency department. Last year, one dose of this drug increased from $1,800 to $2,900, Medicaid doesn't pay for this, the hospital incurs this expense."

The state budget is supposed to be in place by April 1.

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