Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Butler Co. may ax social services

Programs being scrutinized after state cuts funds

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A large drop in state funding is forcing Butler County to take a closer look at 30 social service contracts that are up for renewal for the next year.

        Ohio's partnership allocation to Butler County decreased by $1.5 million, or 14 percent, for the fiscal year that began July 1. The annual cost of the 30 social service programs is $3.3 million.

        Many of the programs are designed to help people making the transition from welfare to work, and to assist at-risk students.

        “I'm sure that every one of the programs does some good for some people,” County Commissioner Mike Fox said. “But we have to set funding priorities.”

        The commissioners asked Bruce Jewett, director of the Butler County Department of Job and Family Services, to obtain performance data from the agencies under con tract and then assign priorities to the services.

        “We want to know how effective the programs are,” Mr. Fox said.

        The state made 14 percent cuts in partnership allocation funds to all 88 counties, Mr. Jewett said.

        He said the main reason for the cutback is the large amount of money the state is pouring into education as the Ohio Supreme Court decides whether to approve the state's proposed $1.4 billion plan to reform Ohio's school-funding system.

        Agencies providing services under the 30 contracts have been notified that their full contracts might not be renewed for the coming year, County Administrator Derek Conklin said.

        Mr. Fox said he wants to see which services are most effective and give the county the best service for money spent.

        The total decrease in state funding to the Butler County Department of Job and Family Services for the current fiscal year is $9.7 million.

        In anticipation of this, the county commissioners either terminated or did not renew the contracts for 27 social service programs earlier this year. Some of those are among the 30 programs being considered for renewal.

        Mr. Jewett said the less effective programs must be cut not only to balance the budget, but also to allow room for new programs.

        “If we want new initiatives,” he said, “they must come out of this same pot of money.”


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