Sunday, May 20, 2001

Counties question funding

Warren, Clermont want more for kids

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Warren and Clermont counties want to know why Ohio is giving them a fraction of the money per child that Butler County is getting to provide the same help during kids' critical first years.

        “We're being asked to fail,” Warren County Human Services Director Philip Masten said.

        The state Health Department's effort to combine three existing birth-to-3 programs into Help Me Grow will likely mean more money for most counties. The state House has approved an additional $20 million for the initiative.

        But Warren County's funding will actually drop 6 percent, in spite of its strong population growth, said Carolyn Tepe, local coordinator of the Early Start, Early Intervention and Welcome Home programs.

        The county ranks last in estimated per-child funding for the coming year, according to Ms. Tepe's analysis of state allocations, released last week.

        The state expects to give Warren $286,386 to help 638 children in Early Start and Early Intervention — programs for those who are at risk because of family circumstances or developmental disabilities, respectively. The county is now helping about 210 kids — a third of the state's recommended target — with more money than it'll have in the coming year, Ms. Tepe said.

        “We cannot meet those mandates at $449 a child,” she said of the new yearly allocation.

        Clermont County didn't fare much better, ranking 83rd with an allocation that averages $558 per child.

        “No one's been able to explain how it was arrived at,” said Tom Albers, director of Clermont's Job and Family Services. “I have some of those same questions (as Warren).”

        Ninety-eight percent of the funding is based on this year's allocations, responded Debbie Wright, chief of the state Bureau of Early Intervention Services. The other 2 percent was shuffled based on counties' population.

        Hamilton County is satisfied with its $3.6 million allocation for birth-to-3 services — a 13 percent in crease from this year — said Patricia Eber, director of its Family and Children First Council.

        Butler County received much more money than some others — $1,947 per child — because it received more money in the past, Ms. Wright said.

        Still, she said, all counties will be expected to give kids and families the same amount of help.


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