A change in state policy means four of six counties in the region will have less money to spend on child care subsidies for low-income families this year, according to a state association. Schenectady and Fulton counties will see slight increases.
The New York State Association of Counties, which provided a fiscal analysis of the cuts, said counties will have to raise local taxes to maintain the same level of services or else cut them. A state official responded that the counties have enough money to offer the same number of child care slots as in the previous year.
According to the association:
u Albany lost $933,400, or 10 percent of its state child care block grant allocation for this year. It will receive $10.2 million from the state Office of Children and Family Services instead of $11.1 million;
u Montgomery County lost $92,768, or 11.6 percent of its total grant, leaving it with $704,772;
u Schoharie County lost $46,835, or 9.2 percent of its grant, leaving it with $460,225.
u Hamilton County lost 100 percent of its child care block grant funding, or $41,128.
u Schenectady County, meanwhile, saw a $91,455 or 1.7 percent increase. It has $5.4 million to spend this year to help provide child care subsidies to eligible working families.
u Fulton County saw a 1.4 percent increase in its grant, worth $13,536. It has $966,814 to spend this year.
Edward Borges of the state Office of Children and Family Services said the counties are required to spend all their block grants each year, and those that did not last year had a portion of the savings taken back. The grants come from the state and federal governments.
“They were not supposed to hold onto that money,” Borges said. “It means they were not spending it on child care. The rule is you have to spend the money. It is not for the counties to decide to save this money.”
Borges said Schenectady County is seeing a funding increase because it followed the rules and spent down its child care money as required.
Hamilton County Department of Social Services Commissioner Clara Quintal downplayed the total loss of her county’s child care allocation for the year. “We never use the total amount, and we have other money that has not been spent,” she said.
The county has approximately $340,000 to spend for child care subsidies this year, money Quintal said her department has accumulated over the years in other accounts.
“We only have 5,000 people in the county. We could pay everyone and still have money left over,” Quintal said. The county pays child care expenses for approximately 10 children on average per year, she said.
Quintal called the state’s action a break from tradition in that the state never took back saved money. “We were allowed to roll it over,” she said. “From this point on, they will touch the new money.”
Montgomery County DSS Commissioner Bill Cranker said the money the state took back wasn’t money the county had saved. It was in fact money the county had placed into the account, approximately $100,000, from other sources to meet a growing demand for child care subsidies.
With fewer dollars to spend on child care subsidies this year, Cranker said he will likely take money around from different sources to meet the program’s needs. This, in turn, means he will have less money for other social service programs, such as foster care for juvenile delinquents and persons in need of supervision and for Title 20 services, he said.
Cranker said he does not plan to cut these programs, however. “We will put as much if not more in some of those areas. In the long run, there is local share,” he said.
Mark LaVigne, of the state Association of Counties, said the cuts went into effect immediately and did not require legislative action. A total of 41 counties lost money, totaling $15.9 million.
In essence, LaVigne said, the state “punished counties for saving money.” The state examined each county’s day care money to see who saved more than 10 percent of its block grant, he said. Then the state took 40 percent of that money.
“We will see more things like this happen as each state department feels more pressure to save money,” LaVaigne said. He called the state action a cost shift to counties.
DSS Commissioners from Schenectady, Albany and Montgomery counties did not return phone calls for comment.
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