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Focus on Social Services Funding Included in Latest Budget Review

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Focus on Social Services Funding Included in Latest Budget Review

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Legislators acting as an Expanded Budget Committee tonight began to examine restoration of funds to support Social Services programs, as part of the County's 2011 tentative budget. Those programs include most of the department's network of child welfare services provided by contract through not-for-profit agencies, which the department could not sustain in light of the County's 6.9% spending reduction. Tonight's committee decisions may be reconsidered at later expanded committee meetings and will require approval by the full Legislature to become final.

Legislature Chair Martha Robertson moved that restoration of $369,508 in over target spending covering eleven programs be considered at once, maintaining that these programs all work together, and are difficult to prioritize, and represent a strong community investment in terms of reimbursement they generate and benefits they provide. Legislators, however, by a vote of 11-3, opted to consider them one by one. Legislator Kathy Luz Herrera, who advanced the separation motion, said she could not support that large an addition to the budget at this point.

Three of those programs have been considered so far--'the largest restoration $95,297 to fund the Dispositional Alternatives Program, a more than 30-year-old program which diverts youth from the court system, restoration approved by a 9-5 vote. Losing the program, staff noted, would result in more placements outside the home, producing costs that would likely exceed any saving from not funding the program. $15,580 to support Catholic Charities' Child Protective Services Mentoring Program was restored by a vote of 7-6, and the $9,500 for the Advocacy Center's Knowledge is Power anti-domestic violence education program was approved by a 12-1 vote.

In other Social Services budget adjustments recommended, $6,587 was restored to the budget to support an account clerk-typist position in the Child Support unit, approved 14-0, a position that brings in enhanced reimbursement from the State, reimbursement that actually exceed the local cost for the position. Legislators also, by a vote of 13-1 approved funding nearly $17,000 in computer replacements through department rollover instead of reserves

The committee also recommended the following other changes to the tentative budget:

Elimination of $35,000 in one time funding through department rollover for land protection through the County's Capital Reserve Fund for Resource Protection was recommended by a 7-5 vote. An amendment to reduce the allocation to $10,000 failed by a vote of 5-8.

Revenue for Planning Department support for municipal planning services was reduced by $7,500, recommended by a vote of 8-5. The action would continue the practice of providing such services to municipalities at a partially subsidized rate.

Other Actions:

- In the Department of Social Services, a motion to eliminate $30,168 to support a data entry operator position failed by a vote of 6-8; a proposal to restore $24,848 for a transportation specialist failed by a vote of 1-13; and proposed restoration of $21,590 for a keyboard specialist failed by a 2-12 vote .

- Proposed reduction of $69,870 in over target spending to support maintenance of effort funding for the County Library as central library for the Finger Lakes Library System failed by a 1-13 vote. Library Director Susan Currie told legislators that failing to meet the State's maintenance of effort requirement would trigger a 25% reduction in state support for both the County Library and the Finger Lakes Library System.

- A motion from Legislator Frank Proto to reduce legislator salaries for 2011 by $20,000, to apply the 6.9% reduction affecting departments failed by a vote of 1-13. Finance Director David Squires indicated that modification of legislator salaries during a term of service does not appear to be permitted by law. Legislator Mike Lane asked for a formal opinion from the County Attorney regarding whether such adjustments are possible.

- Legislator Proto also advanced two other proposals for discussion and potential future consideration: eliminating longevity bonuses for employees and freezing compensatory time balances at the current value and eliminating future accumulations. Both motions failed by votes of 1-13. Proto said he advanced the ideas now because of cost impact and so that legislators do not lose sight of those issues.

- A motion to eliminate $35,000 in multi-year funding, supported through Planning Department rollover, to leverage outside funding to support the County's energy strategy failed by a vote of 4-10.

Potential Tax Impact of Recommendations to Date

So far, the committee has added $135,004 in target spending to the County Administrator's proposed budget. If the committee's recommendations so far were approved, the county's total 2011 tax levy would increase by 5.34%, and the average county tax rate would increase slightly to $6.43 per thousand dollars assessed property value, an increase of 7.23%.

The committee resumes its review tomorrow, Wednesday, October 27.