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.

 

Follow-Up to County Council Work Session 2014-03-25

Yesterday I posted a preview to yesterday’s County Council work session. Here is a quick summary of the actions taken at that work session:

  • Public Defenders: After many months of discussion, the Council took the final actions to reclassify 7 Deputy Public Defenders from Executive I to Executive II level, and, per the County’s compensation policy, raise each of their salaries $9133, in order to provide equity between the Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office, per a mandate by the State Public Defender Commission. The vote was 6-1, with Councilor Langley voting “no”.
  • Plan Commission: Again, after many months of discussion, the Council amended the salary ordinance to pay each member of the Plan Commission $50 per month per meeting attended, up to $150 per month. This vote was closer: Councilors Dietz, McKim, Munson, and Yoder voted “yes”, Langley and Hawk voted “no”, and  Jones, who, as the Council appointee to the Plan Commission will directly benefit from this policy, abstained.
  • Juvenile COIT
    • The Council heard detailed presentations from Youth Services Bureau Executive Director Kim Meyer (and her staff) on the services provided at the Binkley House Youth Shelter, and from Judge Steven Galvin on the history of juvenile services in Monroe County and the need for an increase in the Juvenile COIT income tax rate
    • Both presentations were terrific and are a must-see for anyone interested in youth services in Monroe County. Their slides are available here:
    • Judge Galvin recommended that the Juvenile COIT rate be raised from the current 0.05% to between 0.08% and 0.085%, depending on the youth services costs that the Council would choose to move from other funds to the Juvenile COIT fund. 0.085% would likely be adequate to cover existing costs and mandatory annual increases for the next 3-5 years. Of course, the revenue that an income tax brings in depends on the income earned by Monroe County residents, and could go up or down; if the income tax brings in too little or too much money, the rate would have to be reexamined.
    • All councilors expressed strong support both for the judicial philosophy expressed by our juvenile justice and social services system — treatment over incarceration — and for an increase in the Juvenile COIT rate to support our youth services. The major area of discussion was whether certain expenses related to the maintenance of our youth services facilities (utilities, maintenance costs, facilities replacement costs, etc.) could also be paid for by the Juvenile COIT , and thereby relieving other overstressed county funds such as the General Fund and the Cumulative Capital Development fund. In order to develop a set of recommendations for the facilities maintenance costs that could potentially be moved from other funds to the Juvenile COIT fund, I created a subcommittee of Councilors Hawk, Jones, and Yoder, who will work with Council Attorney Michael Flory, the Courts staff, and the Commissioners’ Office to analyze past and future essential expenditures on the Youth Shelter property.
    • It is important to note that this proposed increase to the Juvenile COIT rate would only be sufficient to fund current services. As good an investment as youth services is to the future of the community, we are not even at a point where we can fund expansion; the best we can do is maintain current services and current expenditures in an environment in which costs are continually increasing and revenue (in particular the reimbursements we receive from the state for judicial placements in the youth shelter) is declining dramatically.
    • The Council has advertised a public hearing on the potential increase in the Juvenile COIT rate at its regular meeting on 2014-04-08 at 5:30PM.

This meeting was televised by CATS and be seen here:

And the Herald Times also published a wrap-up article on the meeting here: