Local children's advocates and faith groups have flooded County Executive Maggie Brooks' office in recent months with letters requesting a $1 million increase in local funding for low-income child day care subsidies.
But the push is apparently not sitting well with county officials. During a Legislature committee meeting last night, Kelly Reed, commissioner of the Department of Human Services slapped back at the local advocates. She said they are trying to put state funding cuts "at the feet of local taxpayers." Reed was asked to speak to the child day care subsidies by committee chair Debbie Drawe, a Republican.
"This is a battle being fought in the wrong legislative chamber in the wrong city," Reed said.
A little background is in order. Brooks has proposed a 2014 budget that includes a $1.3 million cut in county funding for child day care subsidies. And that's on top of a $725,000 cut in state funding. County officials and local child care advocates both say they'd like to see more state funding for child day care subsidies.
Under the 2014 proposal, the county would provide $6.1 million toward the subsidies, compared to the $7.4 million it provided in 2013. Total spending on day care subsidies would drop from $45.7 million in 2013 to $41.8 million under the 2014 proposal. The local and total spending both include funds for low-income day care subsidies and other day care subsidy programs.
Reed said that the state requires the county to put up more funding than any other county in the state, outside of New York City, and that the county provides more than the required amount, anyway. In fact, she said, Erie and Onondaga Counties are required to put up a smaller percentage of matching funds and they contribute less in local funds. Monroe also gets a larger grant from the state than any county outside of New York City.
"In the past several years, Monroe County has been stepping up to the plate," Reed said.
County officials have said that no children currently receiving subsidies will be kicked out of the low-income program. But as children leave the program, which provides day care assistance for working parents, the slots won't be filled unless money is available to do so. The budget anticipates a decrease of about 485 slots over the course of 2014.
At the start of the meeting, Sister Beth LaValley of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and Dr. Jeff Kaczorowski, president of the Children's Agenda, urged the county to increase its day care subsidy funding.