Raise the Age could cost Genesee County $3M in two years

BATAVIA — Genesee County’s costs could be nearly $3 million for the first two years Raise the Age legislation on criminal responsibility is in effect, legislators heard during their meeting Wednesday.

Raise the Age changes statewide will go into effect on Monday for 16-year-olds and Oct. 1, 2019, for 17-year-olds. It raises the age of criminal responsibility, in stages, to the age of 18. According to the state Unified Court System, this ensures that young people in New York who commit non-violent crimes receive the intervention and evidence-based treatment they need. By October 2019, New York will no longer automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Each county has had to submit a proposal to the state on how that county will comply with Raise the Age.

“We were the second county to submit our Raise the Age plan six weeks ago. We are now on version four of followup responses to the state Department of Budget and OCFS (state Office of Children and Family Services) in terms of what our content is, Jay Gsell, county manager, said. “Of the 24, we were right out of the gate, but that’s still not gotten us an approved plan.

“Oct. 1, Monday, we will be dealing with the implications of Raise the Age. What those are, and what our plan indicates, could be as expensive over the first two years as almost $3 million. Understand, that’s the magnitude of what we’re talking about for a small county like Genesee, with a population that’s been identified by the state as being rather small in terms of who will actually have to move through this entire system,” he said.

Gsell said the state Office of Court Administration has a separate plan going on with the judiciary and those who work in the court building.

“Then there’s all the rest of us in administrative departments like DSS (Department of Social Services), Mental Health, as well as the probation department … The cost in our prospective budget for 2019 just for Raise the Age is approximately $1.4 million,” he said. “Now, obviously, there’s a 100 percent revenue reimbursement anticipation there, but, again, they haven’t even set that process up in terms of how they’re going to track Raise the Age expenses/reimbursements.”

The county manager, as others have, criticized the law passed in Albany.

“Understand, that is what we are working with in a very ill-planned and very mis-begotten notion as far as the legislation that was passed — and then all these agencies that were handed this administrative nightmare to try to carry out and work with all of us,” he said. “They have been, at least to some extent, solicitous of input …”

Legislator Shelley Stein, who was among the county lawmakers/officials who attended the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) conference in Rochester this week, said the number of county plans the state has approved so far is telling.

“… today, they’ve got 24 county plans and they have approved none,” she said. “So I think that is very telling that this is new, that nobody knows the right way to go about it and there’s going to be constant shifting and changing as we learn what it is that we don’t know so far.”

Gsell said the county cautioned its departments to monitor their Raise the Age expenses.

“We cautioned all our departments to keep very specific track of Raise the Age-applied costs and even the development of what we’re doing with this plan right now,” he said.

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