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St. Lawrence County seeks advice from comptroller

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County is the first county in the state to ask the comptroller’s office for advice in dealing with its fiscal difficulties.

“No other county in the state is going to them for advice,” said Leann I. West, government relations with Wladis Law Firm, Syracuse, which represents the county.

Ms. West, along with Mark Wladis and representatives from the county, met last week with members of the comptroller’s staff, who offered cost-saving suggestions based on audits they have performed for other counties in the past.

Recommendations included refinancing of debt for low interest rates; checking eligibility certifications for health insurance coverage; conducting a cost-benefit analysis of a health insurance buyout plan, and monitoring benefits of retirees and dependents who may have died.

In terms of the Department of Social Services, the comptroller staff recommended making sure the cost of transportation for those who are eligible for Medicaid is the lowest possible. The department should make sure it is recovering all state aid available for eligible costs, factoring in fringe benefits, overhead and information technology expenses. Staff members also recommended controlling payments for child care because state estimates are that 21 percent of claims are inaccurate.

The comptroller’s staff commended the county on using the cook/chill program, which offers bulk prepared meals for use in the jail and for select products for meals for senior citizens.

Staff recommended evaluating overtime to see if it is cheaper to add part-time or full-time staff.

For energy savings, staff members suggested sleep modes for computers, motion sensor lights, development of policies to save costs, and implementation of programs identified by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The comptroller staff also suggested the county look into offering back office services, such as payroll, for towns and villages. Such services could generate revenue for the county and save other municipalities money, Ms. West said.

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