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Legislature Approves $3M for Community College Tuition Reimbursement

Treasurer cites increased enrollment due to economy.

Every parent knows that college tuition isn't the cheapest, especially in today's economy.

"It's probably because of the economy," Nassau County Deputy Treasurer Beaumont Jefferson said, "you have more students going to community college."

It is precisely because of that increase in enrollment that Jefferson was before the Nassau County Legislature last Monday morning asking for a supplemental appropriation of $3 million for tuition reimbursement purposes.

About $1.3 million would be for reimbursement for FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), with the remaining $1.7 million for tuition reimbursement for all other community colleges. FIT is considered a community college and under state law, is reimbursed by the county.

"If the county fails to make any payments that we are required by state law to make, they will just withhold it from our sales tax," Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, R-Massapequa, said.

The treasurer's office had originally budgeted $2.3 million in tuition reimbursement, but according to Jefferson will realize close to $4 million this year, having under-budgeted for the expense.

The charges come to Nassau County, while the revenues go to Nassau Coummunity College. The county then bills the towns and cities for tuition reimbursement. Bills are sent to the respective towns and cities by quarter.

For example, if a Nassau County resident goes to a community college outside the county–such as Suffolk Community College–the county will then pay Suffolk Community College. Likewise for a resident of Suffolk coming for class at Nassau Community College.

"Nassau Community College would bill Suffolk for that payment and they would reimburse Nassau Community College," Jefferson said.

Jefferson testified that Nassau has only received about $52,000 from Long Beach.

"Most of the towns say they need to review the information and they'll get back to us," he said, adding that the towns of Hempstead and North Hempstead were "reviewing the bills."

Former County Executive Tom Suozzi, D-Glen Cove, implemented the policy of seeking reimbursement from towns and cities their share of the cost. The towns have been paying their share since 2004. Charges for FIT was not billed until 2008.

"We need this supplemental appropriation to actually pay school bills for the fourth quarter of 2010." Jefferson said. 

"So you're going to pay them before you get the money from the towns and cities?" Legis. Robert Troiano, D-Westbury, asked.

Jefferson answered that "we've been holding bills from FIT and other community colleges since the beginning of September."

The additional appropriation was passed unanimously by the legislature.

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