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Astorino: Compromise on Day Care Funding Possible, But $4M Shortfall Looms

County executive calls on county legislators to "realistically address" deficit that threatens program.

Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino says he is open to compromise on the level of parent contributions for subsidized day care funding, but contends county legislators must first realistically address the nearly $4 million shortfall that threatens to shut down portions of the program before the end of 2012.

Westchester County is being sued by Democrat members of the Board of Legislators over the amount of money parents must contribute for subsidized day care. In the 2012 budget, the legislators set the parental share at 20 percent of income over the poverty level, regardless of how many children the family has in the program. Throughout the budget process, Astorino said the 20 percent level was too low to keep the program solvent.

Astorino's his veto was overridden by legislators.

"I’m open to suggestions but they must honestly and specifically detail just where the money will come from to keep the day care program operating,” said Astorino.  “The parents and the children in the program, as well as taxpayers, deserve to know where they stand. So do the beneficiaries of the other programs that will have to be raided to finance the gap. I am willing to make tough decisions. I am not willing to pretend we can just find fictional revenues. That’s how Westchester became the highest taxed county in the nation.”

In a blog posting on Patch, Legislator  said the Republican members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators are calling on both sides of the pending litigation between four Democrat County Legislators and the Westchester County Executive and Social Service Commissioner, along with the New York State Commissioner for Office of Children and Families, as defendants, to immediately begin meeting to work out a compromise. 

Maisano said Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins has been asked to schedule a Committee of the Whole Meeting and to invite the County Executive and Social Services Commissioner to conduct a discussion on ways to  settle the litigation.

Faced with a financial crisis, Westchester Department of Social Services Commissioner Kevin McGuire received approval from the state Office of Children and Family Services to have the parental share raised to 35 percent, the level paid by families in New York City and 20 other counties.

Westchester County families had been paying 33 percent as recently as 2006. 

Despite the state’s permission, Democrats went to court to block the increase. The case is before Acting Supreme Court Judge Robert Neary, who is expected to rule later this month.

Astorino said the $32.5 million the county has set aside for day care subsidies will start to run out this summer. Expenses are expected to hit $36.4 million by the end of the year, producing a $3.9 million deficit.

The program is broken into three categories:

- Temporary Assistance, about 620 children whose family income is low enough that the county is mandated to pay the full amount;

- Low Income, about 2,700 children whose family income can run up to 200 percent of the poverty level;

- Title XX, about 200 children, whose families qualify for a special county program where income can be up to 275 percent of the poverty level.

Most of the Low Income program and all of Title XX program are discretionary, which means the programs are stopped when the funding runs out. Astorino said DSS projections show the Title XX program running out of money at the end of July and Low Income starting to run out of money in October.

Astorino said the situation has been made worse because the overall DSS budget, from which the day care program is funded, has been hit by an $18 million reduction in federal aid and a $5 million increase in Medicaid expenses in 2012.

"When people say just find the money somewhere else in the budget that means we have to take it away from something else," said McGuire. "There are no good choices here. Arguing over whether the parental share should be 20 percent or 35 percent misses the point that when the subsidy runs out, parents are going to be paying 100 percent. When a program runs out of money, it just doesn't appear somewhere else."

The chart below, according to Astorino, illustrates the $32.5 million child day care subsidy program in Westchester County:

Child Care Subsidy categories (DSS)

Public Assistance

Low-Income

Title XX

Eligibility

Earn less than FPL*

Earn 100% to 200% FPL

Earn 200% to 275% FPL

Federally mandated?

Mandated

Partially Mandated

Not Mandated

# of kids in program

620

2,747

206

Who pays?

75% feds/25% county

100% feds until allocation runs out then 100% county

100% county

Parent share

NONE

20% - based on income above FPL

20% - based on income above FPL

County budget FY ’12 – not including $1.9 million cost for administration

$7.6 million

$22 million

$953,000

Funding  situation

Mandatory

Exceeds budget in October

Exceeds budget end of July

* FPL – Federal Poverty Level (for Westchester family of three – $18,530, family of four – $22,350)

Chris Clement July 07, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Aidan wrote "If you can't afford children, don't have them. If you can't support them, don't expect your neighbor to do it for you. All babies come with a certificate of ownership ... it's called a birth certificate. That certificate belongs to you and the child ... not to your neighbor." Cut/pasted Aidan's post because it's worth repeating. And though I believe in "help your neighbor", help if/when they hit hard times w/o their own doing, like temp unemployment from losing job, temp housing or food. Having a child is a life-long responsibility. Don't ask me, a tax payer, to pay for your kids. This is NOT what govt is for. Turn to the church.
Aidan July 07, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Stop with the Catch-22 nonsense. We're talking CULTURAL and SOCIETAL. Government over the recent decades has fostered dependency and rewarded those who simple opt out of the American dream by falling on their victimhood sword. That's always bound to get a yelp out of all of you who feel that personal responsibility is something of small importance ... and getting smaller by the day.
Aidan July 08, 2012 at 12:20 AM
"The govt and popular culture have spent decades completely decimating the role of mothers and fathers, traditional religious values and moral behavior ... " There ya go. Examine the last few decades and witness the changes. Schools are thisclose to indoctrination centers ... now required to provide services that were unimaginable a short while ago. At every turn, the role of churches and such are questioned as though they're some divisive force ... so that the government can weasel on in and remake all efforts in their liking. Parents, some willingly and some not, have caved ... and either given up their parental voice or simply enjoyed being relieved of obligations by schools and by government. Any parent that embraces the values and virtues of not-so long ago is perceived as quirky, passé or even an outright danger to their own children because they're out of step with the new and supposedly improved societal evolution. SS is right. It's been a slow, incremental onslaught engineered by liberals/progressives who insist that they know better than everyone else ... and are hellbent on forcing their "new and improved" values on everyone else. Time to push back.
John Anderson July 08, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Yes Silly, and we have to try and vote them out. I don't need someone to tell me what to do, how to raise my kids, what food to eat etc. etc. The problem I notice though is that all of the parties are just as bad as the other, a lot of talk.... What is happening now could lead us to civil unrest of some sort for sure, which I sure would hate to see. I can see, hear and feel the tension and hate increasing, what a shame.
jeff meyer July 08, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Silly Season, no one has ever expressed such concern for my colon. Thank you. Really, thank you!!!! JM Tuckahoe, NY

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