Hudson Valley’s government relations in full swing

Pat Gareau

Editor-in-Chief

“One of the biggest responsibilities I have is maintaining the fiscal health of the college and part of that is advocating for state and local funding,” said Hudson Valley President Drew Matonak.

With Governor Cuomo kicking off New York State budget season on Jan. 23, one of Hudson Valley’s most active periods of government relations is also underway. The executive budget did not include increased state funding for community colleges, but did include capital funds for a new athletic complex on campus.

According to Matonak, the NY legislature often advocates for increased funding in higher education. “Typically, [governors] haven’t put additional dollars in the budget,” he said.

New York Assemblymember John McDonald’s district includes Hudson Valley. “I have regular communication with the president of the college and that’s usually my point of contact,” he said. According to McDonald, he works with the school throughout the year as well as with constituents who are seeking information about the college’s programs.

However, this part of the year is one where communication between the state representative and the school increase. “During the budget process particularly, the president always makes a few visits down to see both myself and the senator to make sure that the college’s position is well stated, that their concerns and their fiscal health is understood, and that’s something we take very seriously,” said McDonald.the county jimino matonak

According to Matonak, a lot of the advocacy for higher education funding in the state budget is done formally by SUNY, but that Hudson Valley is “intimately involved in that process.”

Governor Cuomo’s speech also included a proposal that community colleges become more closely aligned with the regional economic development councils so that the academic programs are related to local workforce demands. Matonak, who is a member of the Capital Region Economic Development Council, said, “I believe we are already where the governor wants us to be.”

In addition to advocating for funding in the budget, the college has worked with the state on the Start-Up NY program throughout the last year. The school’s plan was recently approved and they are currently seeking proposals from businesses at their four tax-free sites in downtown Troy.

McDonald noted that he had worked with Matonak during that process. The college also worked with local governments on Start-Up NY, including the city of Troy.

“The Start-Up NY program is phenomenal for Hudson Valley but is also fantastic for the city of Troy. So we really looked to have a partnership between the two of us, the city and the college, and that partnership is really going to benefit the entire Capital District,” said Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia, who was previously a professor at Hudson Valley.

“Overall the relationship that exists between Hudson Valley Community College and the city of Troy, I would characterize as very good,” said Rosamilia.

While the college works with the city of Troy as needed, such as Start-Up NY, the school’s relations with Rensselaer County are more consistent. Funding for the college comes from three sources– tuition from students, state funding, and from local counties.

Rensselaer County is the college’s sponsor country and contributed nearly $4.5 million for the 2014-15 academic year. Other counties pay the college per resident that is enrolled at Hudson Valley.

Hudson Valley and Rensselaer are aligned on the position that state funding for community colleges should be increased.”What concerns us both, I believe, is that state law requires that the state contributes 33 percent of the cost of the college and then local governments 33 and the students 33 percent…I think both the college and the county would like to see the state live up to what is specified in the law as their fair share,” said Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino.

According to Jimino, the counties and community colleges across the state are working together more than she can ever remember on this issue.

Rensselaer’s sponsorship contribution is determined in the county budget, which is passed over the summer. Jimino said that a lot of the communication between the college and the county goes through the legislature, which approves contracts and the budget, but that she also speaks regularly with President Matonak throughout the year.

While Hudson Valley’s government relations have traditionally been centered at the state and local level, community colleges have become national topic after President Obama announced a plan that would have the federal government pay for two years of community college for all Americans.

“One of the great things about this president is that he has put community college at the forefront,” said Matonak, who believes that whatever side one stands on Obama’s policy, the debate is positive.

While Obama’s proposal has made this an unusually big year for community colleges at the national level, Matonak is not a stranger to federal relations. Every year SUNY and the American Association Community College have a lobbying day in Washington D.C. and the Hudson Valley president has attended them each in the past.

Matonak also receives regular emails from Congressman Paul Tonko, whose district includes Hudson Valley, with information on federal grant opportunities.

Many SUNY schools, including community colleges, have a special administrative position for government relations. Hudson Valley used to have a vice president for and advancement government relations but the position is no longer filled due to budgetary pressure and personnel cuts in recent years.

 

 

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