How Do Children and Families Fare?
Initial Review of Governor’s Proposed FY 2011 Operating and Capital Budgets
The Governor’s proposed FY 2011 budget avoids significant cuts to services to families, despite a significant revenue shortfall. This is extremely laudable. However, the budget preserves the status quo rather than make transformational changes that will improve services and save money in a fiscally uncertain future.
The Governor is tapping into one-time sources of funding and assuming new federal funding. The legislature will need to accept these financial strategies, or it will have to make cuts. If the assumptions, particularly about new federal funding, do not prove true, cuts will need to take place during the fiscal year. Moreover, there still remains a large deficit looming for FY 2012. The Governor and General Assembly may be more willing to raise taxes after the elections in fall 2010, and the economy will hopefully rebound. Still, the FY 2011 budget does not reduce the future risk to services for children and their parents.
The Department of Juvenile Services plans to expand the number of slots of evidence-based community services from 383 to 427, increasing spending by $1.4 million. This is a step in the right direction, although there is still a large unmet need, particularly in Prince George’s County.
The budget wisely defers funding for construction of new juvenile treatment centers in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. Advocates for Children and Youth and others had sought a delay while the State improves its residential model to ensure public safety. The State had previously indicated a desire to replicate the Victor Cullen Center, which has a high failure rate.
The budget book reveals that juvenile recidivism remains at the same catastrophically high level as last year; 56 percent of youth are re-arrested within one year. This poor track record has persisted despite significant budget increases.
- The budget adds $4.7 million for site acquisition and design of a 48-bed secure detention center to serve male youth from Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s County.
- The budget continues a $5 million cut to local management boards, enacted during FY 2010. These funds paid in part for community-based services that prevent delinquency.
The budget includes a $101-million increase in compensatory education funding to local school systems because of a large increase in the number of low-income students. Baltimore City receives an increase of $43 million. Click here for a district-by-district breakdown. The budget highlight book says that this money is to “close the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and their peers.” However, school districts have used this money for general operating expenditures. Without action by the Maryland State Board of Education, this money will likely not result in expanded interventions for low-performing students.
Total direct funding for local systems increases by $113 million. Montgomery Count receives a $51 million increase; whereas, funding for Prince George’s County drops by $29 million. Baltimore City goes up by $30 million. Click here for a district-by-district breakdown. These large variations may in part reflect enrollment changes; a drop in enrollment means less funding. NOTE: These figures are corrections from those in the budget highlights book which were basd on incorrect student enrollment numbers.
- The State will continue to pay 100 percent of the cost of teacher pensions. This will require an additional $189 million in FY 2011 vs. FY 2010.
- The budget keeps the State share of the cost for nonpublic placements of disabled students at 70 percent; this was reduced from 80 percent last year, but there is no further reduction proposed.
- State aid for transportation is reduced by $4 million than required by law. This will require legislation.
Payments for children in foster care, including group homes, drop by $14 million. Spending on services for children to stay in their own homes decreases by $6 million. Thus, it appears that the Department of Human Resources is not being allowed to invest savings from reduced foster care placements into increased services for parents and families, which is essential for child safety and to sustain reform efforts.
The budget appears to keep the same of number of caseworkers. If the Department is allowed to fill all of these positions, caseloads will remain at the same level, which is a good thing, as previous governors have imposed child welfare hiring freezes.
Based on a reference in the budget highlights book, the budget maintains funding for higher reimbursements for dental services for children and funding for an expanded oral health safety net. These were critical first steps in ensuring that children in Medicaid are able to find dentists that will treat them.
The budget highlight book mentions that the budget includes funding for “Quick Start” prenatal services in Baltimore City, Prince George’s and Somerset Counties. This is a helpful part of an overall strategy by the Governor to reduce infant mortality.
- It is unclear what, if any, increases there are in reimbursements rates to medical providers who treat children and families on Medicaid or in the Maryland Children’s Health Program.
- Aid for core public health services, including family planning and material and child health services, was cut by $20 million during FY 2010; $4 million of this cut is restored in FY 2011.
The budget does not appear to include funding for any additional eligibility workers even though the State recently was found to be violating federal law in timely processing of food stamp applications. However, it may be that the Department of Human Resources is no longer subject to a hiring freeze for these positions, which will mean more actual eligibility workers are in place.
- The Governor’s power point presentation on the budget mentions $2 million in savings of “administrative consolidations,” including some local department of social services administrative tasks. It is not clear what this means or how savings are possible given the large increase in the number people needing social services because of the economy.