Thursday, April 20, 2006

Details, Details

One area of the New Jersey budget where Governor Corzine has proposed significant growth is the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The summary of major increases and decreases from the Budget in Brief (page B-65) shows that the governor proposed to spend $50,364,000 more in 2006-07 than projected for current year state operations, plus $64,611,000 more in Grants-in-Aid for "Child Welfare Reform."

I was curious about the nature of the child welfare reform and its costs, so I did a little digging around, and found the DCF budget recommendations.

The Fiscal 2007 Budget for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) totals $974.8 million, an increase of $235.6 million in State funds over the fiscal 2006 adjusted appropriation of $739.3 million for the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Office of Children Services.
This increase of $235,600,000 is broken down into 3 buckets -- $93,165,000 for direct state services, $132,397,000 for Grants-in-Aid, and $10,000,000 for Capital Construction. Within these three categories, expenditures are identified by program, as shown below.

Direct State Services
Child Protective and Permancy Services
Prevention and Community Partnership Services
Education Services
Child Welfare Training Academy Services and Operations
Safety and Security Services
Administration and Support Services

Child Protective and Permanency Services
Child Behavioral Health Services
Prevention and Community Partnership Services

Capital Construction
Administration and Support Services

Summing up the totals and looking at how the growth is distributed, it becomes clear that no "tough choices" were made to develop the DCF budget. Across the board, huge increases in spending are planned (click the table below to see).

The topline DCF budget is most disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as this next little bit.
In Child Protective and Permanency Services, the active caseload expected for 2007 is 58,100 children (page D-35), costing $9,565 for each child. In 2006, the caseload is 59,200 children, driving a cost per child of $7,211. Reaching back into 2005, the caseload was 64,300 children, and the actual spending was $7,453 per child. State spending for Child Protective and Permanency Services, on a per-child basis, has increased over 28% in the last two years, but goes up by nearly 33% this year.

Why the increased cost? Simply put, the program has added a significant number of staffers. In 2004, 3,450 people were employed by the CPPS program. That grew to 4,154 in 2005, and 5,059 in 2006. 2007 headcount isn't available in the budget, but DCF planned for nearly 10% growth in total filled positions, from 6,178 to 6,620. The department budget detail states (page D-36) "The Budget Estimate for fiscal 2007 reflects the number of positions funded and will be allocated by program class upon approval of a revised Child Welfare Reform Plan."

The story this document tells is staggering. The Department of Children and Families obviously does not intend to follow the governor's stated intention (BIB, page B-3) for
Reduction of more than 1,000 staff positions with accompanying savings of $54 million through a rigorous hiring freeze, administrative efficiencies and responsible reorganization of select government functions.
As evidenced by the budgeted personnel comment above, there is no plan (yet) to create a more efficient system of providing protective services for children. This is simply a plan to spend more of our tax dollars as quickly as possible.

Tags: Jersey, Taxes, Budget