Funding for Youth Services Expansion on Council Agenda for Tonight

Back in March, I wrote about an exciting plan for major capital improvements to Monroe County’s facilities for youth services, including the Binkley House Youth Shelter (located at 615 S Adams St).

Much has happened with this project over the last several months. An architect was hired (RQAW), the facilities were designed, and the County Commissioners have awarded a contract for construction of the new facility to Building Associates, pending funding approval by the County Council.

Architect’s rendering of the expanded youth facilities and Binkley House youth shelter

At tonight’s County Council meeting, the Council will consider the appropriation request for $2,261,000 to fund the construction. The actual bids came in quite a bit under the estimated $3M for the project. The Council will consider funding the project from three sources, all of which are earmarked specifically for funding for youth services:

  • Juvenile Per Diem Fund (which receives money from the state when youth are placed in the facility)
  • Juvenile Services Non-Reverting Fund (which received one-time money left over from the Child Welfare property tax levy when the state took over child welfare funding)
  • Juvenile Rainy Day Fund (which received certain special distributions of the Juvenile county option income tax)

None of these funds by themselves could support the entire $2.3M appropriation, but together they more than fund the project, which means that the County will not need to bond for (borrow) the money for this capital project.

When talking about youth services and our youth shelter here in Monroe County, I want to make it clear, because several constituents have asked me about it, that our youth facilities do not include any aspect of secure detention. Our Youth Services Bureau is entirely focused on supporting youth and families through advocacy, education, collaboration, and providing support to youth and families in crisis.

Monroe County’s proactive and positive approach to youth services has resulted in one of the lowest rates of youth placed in secure detention in the date, a rate radically lower than that of our peer counties.

The Monroe County Council meetings tonight, January 8, 2019 at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. The meeting will be broadcast on CATS and is open to the public. Public comment will be taken on any item on the agenda (including this proposal to fund the YSB expansion) and on topics not on the agenda.

$3M Upgrade to Monroe County Youth Facilities Considered

Old YSB House Before Demolition
House in Front of the Youth Shelter That Would Be Demolished

This past Tuesday, the Monroe County Council discussed a request for major capital improvements to Monroe County’s facilities for youth services, including the Binkley House Youth Shelter (located at 615 S Adams St).

 

Back in February of 2017, the County Commissioners GSD Contract in partnership with the architecture and design firm RQAW to review existing facilities and recommend a plan for renovation and expansion based on the analysis of current and future needs.

The report from the consultants was received in July 2017, and provides an extensive review of the needs of the programs, condition of existing facilities, and proposed combination of renovation and new facilities. Major recommendations include:

  1. Demolition of an old house that is currently used for a few offices and storage, and whose maintenance costs have become unsustainable (I included a picture of the house above).
  2. Additional parking along South Adams St, including improvements to allow delivery truck access, and a nature path and pavilion outside.

  3. Upgrades to the Binkley House Shelter portion of the facility, including paint, carpet, restroom upgrades, better separation of recreational from study spaces, more storage for youth belongings, and a walk-in freezer to allow more bulk purchasing. The shelter currently serves up to 15 youth; there are no plans to increase this capacity.
  4. New large multi-purpose space that can be used as a gym, classroom, group meeting room, space to take youth out of stressful situations, etc.
  5. Upgrades to the Administrative wing of the facility, including creation of small conference/meeting rooms, better waiting areas, secure file storage, additional office space, and public restrooms.
  6. Furnishings, including office furniture and furniture for the shelter.

Screenshot 2018-03-03 08.51.11
Feasibility Study

The Feasibility Study (Exhibit A) includes a description and rationale for all of the recommended upgrades, demolition, and new construction.

 

Last week, the County Commissioners approved a follow-on contract with RQAW for approximately $190K to provide detailed architectural design documents for the project. These documents would then be used to solicit bids for the demolition and construction work. This contract is subject to appropriation of funds by the County Council; the Council will consider this request at our regular meeting on March 13th.

The total cost estimate for the recommended facilities range from $2.9M and $3.2M. As per our role in the process, the County Council spent most of our time discussing potential sources of funds for the project. Options include:

  • One-time funds (in the Juvenile Services Non-Revering Fund) of around $1.1M saved from excess property taxes collected for child welfare at the time the State took over child welfare funding. The County Council earmarked this money to be spent on juvenile-related services and initiatives.
  • $1.7M in the County Per Diems fund, which consists of money paid by the State to the County for court-ordered and Department of Child Services (DCS) placements.
  • One-time funds (in the Juvenile COIT Rainy Day fund) of $164K from past distributions of the juvenile county option income tax from the State.
  • Funds in the Location Income Tax Special Purpose (formerly known as the Juvenile COIT) could potentially be used for the furnishings (not bricks and mortar construction) component of the project.
  • Future general obligation bond (paid for by a property tax rate).

It appears that a large proportion of the project (if not all of it) could be paid for out of cash (in the above funds). However, there is also concern among some (including me, along with the director of Monroe County’s Youth Services department) that it would be prudent to hold back some cash reserves, particularly in light of the turmoil and chronic underfunding in the State Department of Child Services.  One option would be to pay for a majority of the $3M out of cash savings, and the rest from bond issue.

The County Council will continue this discussion at our regular meeting on March 13, 2018, at 5:30PM.

 

Preview of Today’s Monroe County Council Work Session (2014-03-25)

courthouseThe agenda for this evening’s Monroe County Council work session is available here:

The following are the highlights:

  • Public Defender: The Council will hold a second reading of (and take a vote on) a salary ordinance amendment to provide a salary increase for 7 deputy public defenders who were reclassified from the Executive I (EXE I) classification to Executive II (EXE II), as part of a mandate from the State Public Defender Commission to provide for an equivalency between the Public Defender’s and the Prosecutor’s offices. I have written more about this here. The salary increases did not pass unanimously on first reading two weeks ago (Councilor Langley voted “no”), so they have to be voted on again.
  • Plan Commission: Again, the Council will hold a second reading of and take a vote on a salary ordinance amendment to provide a salary increase for members of the Plan Commission. The proposal is to pay each member $50 per month per meeting attended, up to $150 per month. I have written more about this here. Again, the salary increases did not pass unanimously on first reading two weeks ago (Councilor Langley voted “no”), so they have to be voted on again.
  • Juvenile COIT: The council will hear a presentation from Judge Steven Galvin, the juvenile court judge, and Kim Meyer, the Executive Director of the Youth Shelter, on the need to both reauthorize and increase the rate of the Juvenile County Option Income Tax (Juvenile COIT).
    • The Juvenile COIT is a special income tax rate only applicable to Monroe County (IC §6-3.5-6-33) of up to 0.25% specifically to fund a juvenile detention center and other juvenile services (including the youth shelter and the juvenile court).
    • The current rate is 0.05%. The County Council  has advertised the possibility of raising the rate up to 0.1%, although they can also set a lower rate (advertising sets the maximum rate that can be considered).
    • Tonight’s meeting will be discussion only; the Council will conduct a public hearing during the regular County Council meeting on April 8, 2014 at 5:30 PM in the Nat U Hill Room in the Monroe County Courthouse.
    • The reasons for the proposed increase are to continue to fund existing services and possibly to move some additional juvenile court-related expenses that are currently in the general COIT fund into the juvenile COIT fund.
  • County Council: Several County Council members will provide a brief financial update, with a more detailed update to come after the end of the first quarter (March 31).

The meeting will be tonight, Tuesday, 2014-03-25, at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. As always, all meetings are open to the public.  Although this is a work session, not a regular meeting, and so there is no general public comment on items not on the agenda, we will take public comment on the items for which votes may be taken: the proposed public defender reclassifications and the proposed increase in compensation for Plan Commission members.

Hope to see you there!