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Expanded Budget Committee Reviews Social Services Budget

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Expanded Budget Committee Reviews Social Services Budget

Friday, October 15, 2010
Legislators acting as an Expanded Budget Committee last night examined the budget of the Department of Social Services as its final budget presentation before the committee begins to recommend changes to the 2011 Tentative Budget. Legislators took a careful look at $1.9 million in over target requests submitted by the department, involving nearly $800,000 in local dollar spending. The tentative budget recommends about a half-million dollars in over target spending, with a local cost of just under $300,000.

To meet the County's required spending target, the Department of Social Services could not sustain most child welfare services provided by contract through not-for-profit agencies, funds for those services which are not recommended as part of the tentative budget. Because of challenges in developing the current year budget, the child welfare services were funded on a one-time basis for 2010.

Commissioner Patricia Carey told legislators it has taken the County a long time to develop the complex network of services, which are interrelated, interact with each other, and used frequently in the department's child welfare cases. The programs, she said, draw down State funding through the Community Oriented Preventive Services program, which is no longer accepting new applications. If the County were to cease funding the programs altogether, or did not fund programs next year and wanted to resume them later, the Commissioner warned the reimbursement would not be available, and no other funding exists to support them. "There will be changes in the quality of life of this county if the county chooses not to fund these programs," Commissioner Carey stated. "They will go away, and this county will not look as it does now."

Asked by legislators why the child welfare programs appear toward the end of the department's priority-ranked over target requests, Carey said she had to consider the department's overall functioning in ordering her requests--'and with $1.9 million in requests and 28 OTRs, she said, "essentially everything needs to be funded."

The department's over target requests included several concerning county staffing: 9.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions in Social Services, reduced hours for 4 other positions within Social Services, and 2 FTEs in the Probation Department (funded through contracts for Preventive Services to Children.) The County Administrator's recommended budget would fund 4.5 currently-filled positions and maintain the current workweek for the four positions in Social Services as well as fund the contracts supporting 2 Probation positions. It did not support funding for 5 currently-vacant Social Services positions.

Providing an overview of department expenditures and net local costs for social services programs, department finance director Tom Herden noted net local costs for administration--'projected as a 20% increase in 2011 for planning and coordination--'are rising more quickly than total expenditures because of policy decisions at the state level, with many reimbursement streams capped or decreased.

On Monday, October 18, the Expanded Budget Committee will begin recommending changes to the Tentative Budget. Changes recommended by the committee will still need formal approval by the Legislature to become final.