County agencies still bracing for possible cuts

BROOKVILLE — Before the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a plan to divide about $990 million in expected tax revenue for human services and other agencies, Tuesday, Children & Youth Services Director Brian Mowrey painted a grim picture of what could come for the Human Services Development Fund (HSDF).

“This is one of the funds that’s on the governor’s proposed budget for next year to be increased in funding but to be cut before the increase occurs,” Mowrey said.

The Jefferson County Commissioners agreed to enter into the following HSDF agreements on behalf of Children & Youth Services, all of which will be affected by the cuts: A $1,000 agreement with Life & Independence for Today; a $7,086 agreement with Clearfield-Jefferson Drug and Alcohol Commission; a $5,995 agreement with Community Action Inc.; an $11,000 agreement with Jefferson County Area Agency on Aging (JCAAA); and a $20,000 agreement with Clearfield-Jefferson Mental Health/Mental Retardation (MH/MR).

Mowrey said the HSDF has provided money for these agencies to administer ongoing services over the years, and some of the services provided by the agencies have been reduced.

With HSDF, Life & Independence for Today provides housekeeping services, peer-to-peer counseling and skills training; the Clearfield-Jefferson Drug & Alcohol Commission provides out-patient services for county residents; Community Action Inc. provides case management for homeless individuals served through shelters and transitional housing programs; the JCAAA provides protective services and free meals

to those under the age of 60; and Clearfield-Jefferson Mental Health/Mental Retardation provides services for people who have no insurance.

“I think any time you see cuts in funding, you see cuts to the amount of services you can provide the general community,” said Rod Rhodes of Community Action Inc. “It’ll hurt, like any other cuts, and we’ll do the best we can with the money that we do receive.”

According to Mowrey, HSDF has seen drastic cuts over the last five years.
In 2007, the fund was around $120,000. Now, the fund is down to around $51,000, only $1,000 more than the federal minimum of $50,000.

Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed a 20-percent cut.

If approved, that money will be taken from the $100,000 evidence-based grant funding from Children & Youth Services and put back into HSDF, Mowrey said.

“It seems to have an aspect that in order to increase (HSDF), they’re going to cut some existing funding to put it in there, because right now, it looks like they’re pretty close to baseline,” he said. “The legislative amount that is required is a minimum of $50,000, and we’re at $51,000, so they can’t keep cutting away at the fund.”

Commissioner Jim McIntyre said the good news is that discussions are happening in all four caucuses of the legislature.

“About the 20-percent cut, we were told there would be no discussion, but there’s been movement,” McIntyre said. “So that is a positive aspect.”

Bob Mecca, Life & Independence for Today executive director, said the organization has more than 500 consumers in a six-county region and hopes to be able to provide services at the same level it has provided services in the past.

“I think that it’s very important to maintain services, especially to people with disabilities who are on very limited fixed income,” Mecca said. “It’s very sad to see that the budget is being balanced on the backs of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Also Tuesday, the commissioners approved to extend the lead-based paint consulting services agreement with CDR Contracting from May 12, 2012, to May 11, 2013.

CDR Contracting will continue to perform the required lead-based paint services for the Jefferson County Rehabilitation Program according to the scope of services and for the compensation listed in the original agreement, approximately $1,000 per home.

According to Bill Setree, director of community development, lead-based paint testing is performed on homes in the housing rehabilitation program that were built prior to 1978.

Setree said all of the older homes contain a certain amount of lead, and interim repairs need to be done to address the problem.

If paint is peeling, flaking or chalking, it is scraped and painted over, Setree said.

In other business:
• Jefferson County Director of Economic Development Brad Lashinsky said the county is looking at “re-scoping” the industrial business project to better suit the available funding.

The county learned last year that it received a $2 million grant through the Rural Assistance Capital Program, but that funding has to be matched through a source like the Economic Development Administration (EDA).
Funds from the EDA however, have not been secured.

The county is currently working with Nine Star Capital to see what options are available.

“We’re looking at re-scoping the project and cutting it back so we can access that funding, because that funding is time sensitive,” Lashinsky said.

• All county offices will be closed Monday, May 28, in observance of Memorial Day.

• The next commission meeting will take place at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 22.