The Clark County Department of Family Services would have to slash 50 jobs if the state follows through with tentative spending reductions in the next budget cycle, county officials said Tuesday.
State officials last month asked the county to submit a projected budget for the 2009-11 biennium with 10 percent trimmed from family services, including children’s programs.
Because the state plans to forgo a $4-per-day increase in foster-care reimbursement that was set for July 1, the state would snip less from its funding to the county than was originally forecast, Family Services Director Tom Morton told commissioners.
Instead of losing $3.8 million and 70 jobs, the department would lose $2.8 million and 50 jobs, which Morton said would still be devastating.
“The impact would be tremendous,” Morton said.
He said that if the state rolled back funding, the county also would lose federal matching funds, perhaps doubling the impact to $5.6 million.
Also, freezing the foster-care reimbursement at $680 per month creates different problems, Morton said. Although Nevada ranks among the highest states nationally for what it pays foster parents, the state still has a hard time attracting enough foster parents, he said.
Losing 50 of the 80 jobs the state Legislature created for the department would slice into crucial support positions, Morton said.
Jobs that involve recruiting and licensing foster parents would be among those susceptible to cuts, Morton said.
“It would be a tragedy for us to lose any of those staff members over there,” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said, adding that children in the system would be the ones who would truly lose.
Last week, a representative from the governor’s office insisted the state would not touch funding for children’s programs this budget cycle and had barely begun to think about the next cycle.
Still, Morton said the state had some motive for requesting a tighter family services budget for the future.
“What does it mean? It means they’re thinking of it,” Morton said.
Cutting 50 jobs would make it difficult, if not impossible, to meet federal goals for improving foster care, and could lead to millions of dollars in fines, he said. It also would signal the state’s lack of commitment to fixing the problems that plagued the system a few years ago, possibly spurring a lawsuit from children’s advocates, he said.
The troubles that beset the agency in the past were a result of understaffing, Morton said.
“We’re going to take a step backward from the gains we made,” Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said. “To me, anything dealing with kids should be off limits.”
Commissioner Chip Maxfield agreed. Governments throughout the state face budget shortfalls, he said, but children’s programs must be left intact.
“We shouldn’t take away from our root, and that’s our children,” Maxfield said.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.