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Thursday, 13 June 2013 16:19

Saratoga Bridges Stuck in Limbo as It Awaits Its Financial Fate

By Chelsea DiSchiano | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — With a state budget that cuts $90 million from programs that benefit people with developmental disabilities, and no word from the state on how that cut will affect them, Saratoga Bridges is trapped in a limbo as they hold onto open positions and delay recruiting for mid-management jobs they were planning on adding this year. 

The not-for-profit is holding out hopes that a new bill recently introduced into the state legislature and Senate will restore that funding. 

Though New York State’s final budget was approved April 1, agencies throughout the state are holding their breaths as they wait to see if The People with Developmental Disabilities Restoration and Reinvestment Act of 2013, a newly drafted bill attempting to save that funding, will be passed before the end of the state legislature session at the end of the month. 

The bill was recently introduced to the state assembly by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg and to the senate by State Senator Martin Golden. The bill was drafted with the intent of restoring the full 4.5 percent cut that was enacted in the final state budget, and describes the impacts of the cuts on the people and families agencies such as Saratoga Bridges serve. 

The proposed legislation asks for a full restoration of the cuts through efficiencies and/or by finding revenue within the present budget to make the $90 million dollars hold, according to Valerie Muratori, executive director of Saratoga Bridges. 

“This legislation would get rid of the cut completely, which would be wonderful,” Muratori said.

But Muratori said that since the final budget with the 4.5 percent cut was passed in April, there has been no communication between the state and developmental disability agencies as to when and how they are going to implement the budget cuts as they currently stand. 

“We haven’t had any clear communication on how the cut will be implemented—there were some initial conversations about taking efficiencies from the administration or executive compensation or from audit reviews, but at this point there has never been a final plan presented to the providers,” Muratori said. “So we’re kind of working in a limbo situation realizing that there is a $90 million cut out there that still is pending and we haven’t had any clear communication on how we should be looking at our services to prepare for that cut.”

“We’ve held onto budgeted positions that were not direct support positions and we had some mid-management positions we wanted to add this year that would have helped with the quality assessment and improvement that we have to hold onto,” Muratori said. “We had a couple of mid-managers leave that we’re holding off on recruiting for and instead we’re asking other managers to pick up those responsibilities—we’re holding on until we know what the state is going to do with the cuts.”

Muratori said being in the limbo has made it “challenging” for Saratoga Bridges. 

“If we’re going to get the cut, then let us know how you’re going to implement it so we can deal with it or so we know we need to do something different,” she said. “But if the cut isn’t going to occur, then we’d want to fill those positions because we’re asking people to work a lot more hours and pick up more responsibilities, so it’d be nice to know exactly what their long-term plan is with the cut.”

Muratori said she is hopeful that the new bill will save the organization’s funding, adding that it initially received a lot of support in the beginning but that the legislature “has been quiet since they passed the final budget.”

The bill has been introduced in both houses, with the Assembly bill A.6692 by Weisenberg on the Assembly floor on its third reading. The Senate bill, S. 4777 by Golden, is currently in the Senate Finance Committee.

“The clock is ticking,” Muratori said. “The legislature finishes their year at the end of the month, so we’re not sure exactly if [the bill] is going to move forward, but they have three weeks to make a decision.”

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