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Chairwoman attacks state on mandates

Taxpayers should "push back against a state that has been pushing its expensive programs on county taxpayers."

That was the theme of the annual State of the County message presented Wednesday to the Genesee County Legislature.

Mary Pat Hancock, the Legislature's chairwoman for a decade, addressed department heads and staff in a 30-minute talk highlighting the county's progress in 2010, which she described as "in some cases business as usual in unusual circumstances."

Hancock, a Republican who represents the towns of Batavia and Stafford, listed nine state mandates that are "significant contributors to the unsustainable property tax burden on our citizens." They range from Medicaid to the state pension system.

"Each of these," Hancock said, "could be improved and become more efficient and cost-effective."

The county in 2010 completed an analysis of its nursing home and ways to end its string of operating deficits.

It also saw rising enrollments at Genesee Community College, whose $7,159 cost per full-time student is among the lowest in the SUNY system; a stable property tax rate for the fourth consecutive year; and the Public Health Department's successful handling of the pandemic flu scare.

Hancock also noted the success of the Department of Social Services in helping clients find work, with an average of 16 new applicants seeking financial assistance every day.

She praised the Probation Department for its cost-effective services in providing alternatives to incarceration for 700 adults and juveniles.

She noted that the Youth Bureau's AmeriCorps members provided more than 26,000 hours of services, aiding 25 agencies.

The Job Development Bureau served 636 Work Force Investment Act participants and spent $217,000 to retrain job seekers.

However, Hancock warned of an uncertain "future, possibly 2011, if reimbursements continue to shrink, arrive late [or are] withdrawn entirely," unless there is a "real change at the state level to balance their budget."

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