Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Brooks budget reduces funding for day care subsidies

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 8:52 PM

Monroe County Maggie Brooks says she expects to take heat for decreasing county funding for day care subsidies in her 2015 budget proposal. Brooks presented the proposal tonight. 

As part of Brooks's $1 billion-plus plan, the county would spend approximately $42 million on child care programs. But most of the money would come from state grants. The county would contribute $4.2 million, which is the amount that the state requires, Brooks said. That contribution is more than the local share paid by Albany, Onondaga, and Erie counties combined, she said.

But it represents a decrease from the county's $4.6 million contribution in 2014 — a decision that Brooks defends. The county has met its obligation, she said, and it's time for the state, which requires the county to provide the programs, to direct more funding to Monroe and other counties in need.

The county spends more on child care than it does on its Department of Transportation, the sheriff's road patrol, or other public safety services, Brooks said. And she called on local officials — especially Legislature Democats — and children's advocates to join her in lobbying the state for a change in its child care grant formulas. The state kept the county's grant funding flat this year, she said.

"Nobody in this community disputes the importance of subsidized child care," Brooks said. But the county can't afford to spend more, she said. 

The cut isn't going to sit well with local children's advocates, and Democrats were immediately critical of the cut.  Democratic Minority Leader Carrie Andrews said that the subsidy program supports more than 14,000 low-income families, allowing parents to work so they don't need other forms of assistance.

"She can blame the state, but a budget is a statement of priorities,"  Andrews said.

Brooks's 2015 proposal will keep the county property tax rate flat at $8.99 per $1,000 assessed value; the rate hasn't gone up during her 11 years in office. In preparing the budget, administration officials and department heads had to close a $31.3 million gap, and they had to meet aggressive targets for controlling spending, Brooks said. The result: $7.7 million in savings from internal streamlining and efficiencies. The budget eliminates 17 positions for a savings of $850,000.

The county also expects to save $3.8 million through insurance changes. And it expects $4 million in revenue from a state casino compact, $9.3 million from the sale of tax liens, and $5 million from increases in property assessments.

As in past years, Brooks faulted unfunded state mandates as a main cause of the county's budget gap. She said that 85 percent of the county's budget is mandated by the state and federal government — likening the situation to a family controlling only 15 cents of every $1 it earns. She took particular issue with Medicaid; New York is the only state that requires counties to pick up a substantial portion of the program's cost, Brooks said that she wants the state to assume that burden.

Andrews said that Democrats will dig into the details of the budget in coming days. The budget will be discussed during Legislature committee meetings next week.

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