WILMINGTON — Clinton County Job and Family Services (JFS) is asking county commissioners to authorize an advance on Children Services levy money so the agency does not run out of money for child protection custody in March.
As previously reported, the funding shortfall is due to a substance-abuse scourge afflicting the region that in turn has led to an increased need to place children of addicted parents in foster care.
“If we don’t do anything we will be out of money in March, is what we’re saying. So the advance would help us get through a few more months,” Clinton County JFS Director Kathi Spirk told commissioners Wednesday.
Assistant Clinton County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew McCoy, who is legal counsel for the county commissioners, advised them that such an advance is legally permitted, and is something that schools sometimes do.
At the outset Wednesday, Spirk said obtaining an advance or advances on levy funds is not a long-term solution to the jump in opiate-related foster care placements and related costs.
It is always concerning, she said, to be in the situation of “borrowing from future revenue.” Nonetheless, Spirk added that luckily JFS has the ability to do a fund advance for a while, “keeping things afloat.”
During her presentation, Spirk mentioned the possibility of JFS placing an added Children Services levy on the November ballot to generate more revenue. The existing levy runs until 2024, she said.
Commissioners, as the taxing authority and appropriating authority for the local JFS, must pass a formal resolution in order for the service agency to advance levy funds. They did not take immediate action Wednesday on a resolution.
Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed stressed that advances on levy dollars will not be a long-term solution. He suggested that taxpayers realize the extent of the opioid crisis and of costs associated with child protection custody, and “going back to them is something I think they would support.”
He said prior to an added levy however, there will be a period of time when JFS needs additional money. He asked that the agency provide periodic updates to the commissioners on its cash balance, the number of children in its custody and care, the amount of anticipated reimbursements, and so forth.
In February 2017, Spirk told commissioners that she and Clinton County JFS Deputy Director Gina Speaks-Eshler had made a commitment along with other directors of agencies to talk to state legislators about the funding for child protection. In July 2017, Spirk asked county commissioners for $1 million to deal with a budget shortfall stemming from the jump in opiate-related foster care placements.
Spirk said Wednesday the agency has cut the budget by 10 percent in areas that do not constitute mandated services or entitlement programs.
When asking for levy fund advances, said McCoy, there ultimately can be a resulting cash flow issue. Then he suggested that by the time October, November and December arrive this year, “it’s not only a cash-flow issue, but a cash-absence issue.”
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.