Human services staring down $1 million shortfall

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 1, 2003

The Freeborn County Human Services department is looking at a $1 million gap between their revenue and income next year, meaning they have a lot of work to do as they gear up for the 2004 budget process.

&uot;There’s a number of people that have a big job ahead of them,&uot; said Human Services Director Darryl Meyer.

In the first step of the budget process, the department has begun calculating how much money they’ll have to spend. But with the state legislature increasing requirements for county services, shifting more costs to counties, and decreasing funding, it will be a difficult budget process for Human Services.

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Meyer said that about $200,000 was cut from the county after legislation consolidated about ten accounts and then cut them by 23 percent.

There are also about $150,000 in smaller cuts that included application processing and programs for abused children.

Meyer said he doesn’t know what will get cut yet at the county level. &uot;We have not a made decision at this point,&uot; he said. He said it is premature to say any programs would be eliminated, but anything is possible because costs are going up while revenue goes down.

For instance, starting in 2004, Freeborn County will have to give mental illness checks to juveniles in the child welfare and delinquency programs.

He said he doesn’t know what the cost will be, or how much he’ll have to rearrange personnel, but it adds more complication to the process.

&uot;It may be good public policy, but when the finances are this tight, it doesn’t make sense to add new costs to business operations,&uot; he said.

The county will have to pay $250,000 more for social services like senior care, services for mental retardation and housing for mentally ill and chemical dependent patients at regional treatment centers.

Things might get tighter if a current injunction against the state is lifted; that is preventing them from withdrawing funding from programs for the mentally retarded. He said that might cost about $400,000.

Current extra costs total about $700,000.

Meyer said about $300,000 of the deficit from this year is being carried over.

&uot;Doesn’t cover it to just say pray a lot, does it?&uot; Meyer joked.

(Contact Tim Sturrock at or 379-3438.)