Nassau County has failed to collect more than $5 million owed for tuition assistance it paid for local students who attended community colleges outside the county, the Nassau comptroller said Wednesday.
Nassau pays the outside community college the difference between the tuition for resident and nonresident students, and then bills the Nassau student's town or city for that sum.
"The county is entitled to charge back the towns [and cities] where the students reside," said Comptroller George Maragos, adding that Nassau had not even billed those municipalities for 2009 until last week after his inquiries on the issue.
Maragos said billing is supposed to occur quarterly, and that the towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay still owe $1.2 million for 2008. Officials for both towns said they received their full bills only within the past 10 days.
"For 2008, we were waiting for adequate backup from the treasurer that we requested," said Hempstead Town spokesman Michael Deery. "We only got that recently and cut a check of about $997,000 for them just Jan. 28. We only got the 2009 bill last week and should have that money for them in a few weeks."
In Oyster Bay, the response was similar.
"We just got a full summary bill from them last week and are auditing that now," said town spokesman James Moriarty, who said the bill for the two years is about $700,000.
Maragos laid the blame for the failure at the door of the county treasurer, Steve Conkling, a holdover from the previous administration. Conkling referred Newsday to the spokesman for new County Executive Edward Mangano, Michael Martino, who said he could not yet comment on the subject.
Maragos, however, chastised the county agency.
"The treasurer's office needs to be more aggressive in collecting cash due the county, especially during these times of economic distress," Maragos said.
What towns owe
Glen Cove: $32,942
Long Beach: $70,126
N. Hempstead: $688,205
Oyster Bay: $392,673
Note: Towns of Hempstead and Oyster also owe $1.2 million for 2008