Assembly passes budget with $90M in cuts to the developmentally disabled

For the third year in a row, the New York State legislature has passed a budget on time, but not everyone is happy with the results.

While there was good news for city schools — $240 million was restored for base funding levels for the 2013-14 school year and $25 million in grants will fund full-day and half-day pre-kindergarten — the developmentally disabled did not fare so well.

The budget presented  $90 million in cuts – representing 4.5 percent of agency’s total budget — to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). While this is less than the proposed six percent in cuts, the providers will still “take a hit,” said Paul Cassone, executive director of the Guild for Exceptional Children and the chair of the Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Council.

“When it came to actual negotiations to introduce amendments to fully restore the budget, the governor’s office couldn’t agree,” Cassone explained.

Cassone said that Governor Andrew Cuomo will try to make up for the cuts by taking funds out of administrative salaries.

“[Cuomo thinks] there are some executives that are making too much, but we have to look at it in the context of how large the organizations are and where they are geographically located,” Cassone contended. “A salary needs to be commensurate with the size of the agency and the complexity of the agency. I hope he takes this into account. People with developmental disabilities are being devalued.”

Cassone said that the Guild functions at 90 percent efficiency, meaning that 90 cents out of every dollar made goes directly to services for the developmentally disabled.  He said that if Cuomo only takes from agencies with surpluses, “responsible agencies will be okay. But we are all holding our breath because we don’t know what will be done.”

An advisory council consisting of commissioners and high level stakeholders began meetings on April 1 to discuss how to restore funding.

“My hope is that agencies that have been responsible and efficient, who are meeting and exceeding guidelines, will be rewarded for that,” Cassone said. “There shouldn’t be cuts. We are already providing a high level of service in a way that’s responsible. To penalize them would be foolish.”

In addition, Cassone said he feels as if Cuomo is trying to consolidate agencies, which would take power away from parents.  “He is not taking into account that individual groups of parents were entities who put these together. They will be losing their voice in terms of the types of treatment their children are getting,” he went on. “What level of oversight and what level of determination for the future of their children will these parents have?”

Cassone did express his appreciation for elected officials who “went to bat” for the developmentally disabled. They include Brooklyn representatives such as State Senator Eric Adams, Kevin Parker, and Marty Golden; Assemblymembers Nicole Malliotakis, Peter Abbate, and Alec Brook-Krasny; and Congressmember Michael Grimm.

Golden said he was “extremely upset” with the results. “We let places like the Guild for Exceptional Children, YAI and HeartShare Human Services down.

“They are some of the best providers in the city and state,” he told this paper. “It’s up to the governor and the state of New York to make these places whole as best as they can so they can do our good work and take care of our families in our communities.

“My objective is to continue to fight for this money and get these places back where they have to be,” Golden went on. “We owe it to the kids and the families that take care of them.”

Adams concurred, saying that the cuts “will seriously hurt struggling parents and their disabled children, as well adult dependents who rely on care and services while they are at work. Although we were able to restore $60 million to the budget by fighting back, there is still more to do to get the funding that these families and individuals need.”

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