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Agency director says budget cuts threaten family support services

| Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2005

As state and federal governments cut funding for youth and family programs, Armstrong County Children, Youth and Family Services administrators say the loss of funding will hurt the people they serve and cost more in the long run.

Some services will have to be decreased, according to the agency.

Programs that provide help for the drug dependent and for delinquency prevention -- handled by contractors such as Adelphoi Village, Holy Family Social Services, Ministries of Eden, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and those who provide mentoring and school tutoring -- will be the first to be trimmed, said Dennis Demangone, CYFS director.

"We can't change fixed costs or scale back mandated entitlement services," Demangone said. "We can't say come back. We can't have waiting lists for entitlement services. But we can scale back referred services."

Demangone is concerned that if the county's youth are denied participation in those family support services, they will later need the more costly entitlement services.

"It can be penny-wise and pound-foolish," Demangone said. "Because what can happen is those children will come back to us in two to three years as an entitlement. It will be a challenge for us when they require placement in a group home costing us $180 a day."

"That's the fear if we don't restore funding."

The problem, according to Demangone, is with a reduction in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as TANF, funding given to the states.

The TANF funding for Armstrong County for fiscal year 2005-06, which began in July, was approximately $469,000, down by nearly $674,000 from $1.1 million in 04-05, a decrease of 59 percent.

The state did increase funding for social programs, known as Act 148 funds, to the county by 20 percent, from $2.1 million in last year's budget to $2.5 million for this year.

"That's not enough of an increase by the state," Demangone said.

In addition, the county's required share of the CYFS budget rises from $663,000 last year to $1, 017,844 this year, a 53.5 percent increase.

"The county can't come up with that kind of money," Demangone added.

The county commissioners, who have expressed concern about the impact of the commonwealth's budget for children and youth programs and the increasing burden on county government to provide mandated services, have pleaded with state lawmakers to restore funding in the budget.

Armstrong County CYFS first proposed a budget of $5.7 million which officials say would maintain the previous year's service level. The proposed budget would be an increase of 2.4 percent, or $136,410, over the previous year's budget of $5.6 million.

Demangone said that in order to meet that budget, the agency proposed: No increase in client numbers and no new services; salaries and benefits increase of 3 percent; purchased (contracted) services increase of 2.5 percent; and operating costs increase of 2 percent.

Even with those parameters, the agency still has to revise its budget to $5.4 million, a 3.5 percent decrease from the previous year, due to the state and federal budget cuts.

Consequently, $327,620 must be eliminated from the agency's expenses, and the dependency prevention and delinquency prevention services are the only areas where that can be done, Demangone said.

Demangone has already submitted a plan to the state for his agency's fiscal year 2006-07 that recommends restoring what was cut from this year's budget.

"I'm hoping that they can understand the affect if we don't restore these services," Demangone said.

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