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Proposed Pa. funding will leave Franklin County Human Services struggling

July 18, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Proposed state funding for Franklin County Human Services agencies will not keep pace with rising costs, which might result in local taxpayers making up the difference next year, according to county officials.

"The 1 percent doesn't begin to address our needs," Barry Parks, administrator of Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, told the Board of County Commissioners Thursday. He called the cost-of-living increase included in the state budget "a far cry from where we need to be."

"It's going to be a very tough year ... We're going to have to anticipate ahead of time and tighten our belts for the rest of the year," Human Services Administrator Rick Wynn said.

"While the '08-09 state budget assures no state tax or fee increases, it does not assure the same for county taxpayers," a statement issued by the commissioners stated. The minimal increase in state subsidies "presents a significant challenge" in preparing the county's 2009 budget, the statement read.

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In the $115 million 2008 county budget, the Human Services departments - Aging, Children and Youth Services, Drug and Alcohol, Mental Health/Mental Retardation, Transportation and other services - account for $56.5 million in spending, Wynn said. All but about $3 million of that comes from state and federal sources, he said.

The departments serve almost 14,000 clients in a county with a population of about 140,000, according to Wynn's figures.

Parks said the nursing home's budget is about $13.5 million. Most years, the home is self-sufficient, with Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance paying for services, he said.

Medicaid recipients make up about 82 percent of the patients and account for about 70 percent of fees paid to the center, Parks said.

The cost of health care for residents of the 186-bed home is becoming more expensive as the people entering it generally are older and have more medical problems than in past decades, Parks said. Inflation, particularly in energy and food prices, is far outstripping what the state proposes in funding for the fiscal year that began July 1, he said.

Inflation nationally was more than 1 percent in June, Commissioner Bob Thomas said.

The picture is complicated by the different budget cycles for the state, which has a July-to-June fiscal year, and the county, with its calendar year budget.

"We still don't know what we're really getting" in state funding, Wynn said.

Aging, which has nearly 500 clients and a $3.5 million budget this year, is slated for no increase in state funding for 2008-09, according to a report compiled for the commissioners.

The Children and Youth budget of $9.6 million decreased the Child Welfare and Juvenile Delinquency services by $600,000. The 1 percent increase for purchasing services from private providers might "not even cover basic costs," the report stated.

Transportation, which has seen gasoline prices almost double in a year, might have to reduce services despite increased demand for subsidized rides, according to the report.

"Locally the impact on Mental Health Services will also be dire," the report stated. "With the state of the economy in general, people will be losing insurance coverage or even their jobs and will necessitate providers looking to the County to help with payments for services."

"We first look at our administrative processes" rather than services in cutting spending, Wynn said.

"You can squeeze efficiency (only) so far," Thomas said.

"The consumers that we serve don't care where the money comes from ... They only want to get what they need," Wynn said.

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