Carbon County must pay an additional $16,000 to help cover a 10 percent cut in state funding for one agency.
During the county commissioners' meeting, the board voted to adopt the Carbon County Children and Youth Services need based plan and budget for fiscal year 2013/2014, which amounts to $4,310,334.
Commissioner William O'Gurek explained that the funds come from various state, federal and county sources.
He pointed out that in addition to the 2013/2014 budget, the county was advised by Sallianne Newton, administrator of Children and Youth, that one line item in this year's needs based plan, which the county is currently working within, was just cut by 10 percent by the state. This means that the county must now pay an additional $16,579 that was not already budgeted. The county annually contributes about 20 percent of the agency's overall budget.
"It creates, what I think, is a hardship on the county because we will now have to come up with that kind of money that we have not budgeted," O'Gurek said.
He added that he credits the employees in the Children and Youth department for helping keep the budget figures down over the last few years.
Last year, Newton told the board that the department was taking a 10 percent cut from the state, which represented a $400,000 gap that the county had to find ways to fill in.
Newton changed a number of things in the operations of the department, including altering programs, reviewing child placements, using home providers instead of foster care and having more permanent legal guardians.
The biggest change that helped save thousands came with changes to the community service program the agency handles. In the past, Children and Youth contracted with Pennsylvania Treatment and Healing and JusticeWorks to administer, supervise and transport juveniles sentenced to do community service; but the county switched focus and now utilizes the juvenile probation office, who works with Children and Youth employees to oversee and run the program. This change was expected to save $20,000 a month in expenses.
"That's a substantial savings, in addition to some of the other things she (Newton) did," O'Gurek said, adding that in addition to Children and Youth, the county has a very active group of people, which include the Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative Board, Children's Roundtable and Criminal Justice Advisory Board, who continually work to create better programs for juveniles and families, streamline the court system, and keep the number of child placements down. "It's a complicated process and I think as a county I'm proud of the way everyone is involved in making this program work for the county."
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, said that placement costs are the biggest factor the agency has to deal with because costs could be anywhere from $10 to $15 a day for foster care to over $500 a day.
He credited Newton and the Children and Youth employees for helping keep the placement costs down by the changes they implemented, because a few years ago, the agency was facing an increase in budget to over $5 million.
O'Gurek added that the cost for placements have been decreasing over the last few years. In December 2007, monthly placement costs were $318,000. By 2009, the costs dropped to less than $200,000 a month.
"We made some great strides in doing things differently and not having to pay out those costs," O'Gurek said.
In other matters, Commissioners Nothstein and Thomas J. Gerhard commended TIMES NEWS reporter Ron Gower for his recent coverage of volunteer firefighters.
Nothstein said that Gower's recent opinion column was "right on target."
He pointed out that next week is fire prevention week and urged people to support the local fire departments.
Nothstein added that he commends all municipalities who hire volunteer firefighters and allow them to leave when a call for help comes in because without that cooperation, it could cause major headaches in boroughs and townships if a catastrophe occurred.
He spoke about the volunteers who give their time and service to their community and about the operations of what volunteers must do after a fire call ends.
Gerhard added that the article Gower wrote on the recent dedication of the Mahoning Fire Company's new firetruck was right on target because it recognized the firefighters, KME, and what fire departments are all about.