Supervisors scrutinize three big budgets

NORWICH – Town supervisors reviewed three of the county’s largest budgets, Mental Hygiene, Social Services and Public Health, during a 3 1/2 hour meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday.

County taxpayers pay approximately $11.5 million for the departments’ combined programs.

The local share for the county’s mental health program is expected to climb 6.2 percent next year, or $10,364, due to a drop in state aid, cost of living increases and the annualization of fringe benefits paid out to two staff psychiatrists. After discussion, the latter budget, totaling about $177,000 in local share, was passed on to the Finance Committee with a recommendation from Town of New Berlin Supervisor Ross Iannello that Mental Hygiene Services Director Mary Ann Spryn have “a good explanation” for the drop in state revenues.

Spryn said the local share of the entire mental health program, in excess of $3.7 million, represents roughly 4 percent.

The local share of alcohol and drug abuse services is predicted to increase by 4 percent, due mainly to cost of living increases. Civil Service Employees Association union members receive a 3.25 percent increase in salary next year.

Despite a slight increase in children’s services programs, the Public Health Department’s budget, estimated at $143,238 for the year, is projected to drop 1.4 percent for 2007. Children Services’ $1 million annual budget is up .2 percent.

Social Services officials would ask for about 11.8 percent less in 2007 due to the state’s Medicaid cap instituted in 2005 and a drop in caseloads. Clients are receiving more “up front services” designed to keep them off of public assistance, Commissioner Bette Osborne said. In addition, a new, federal flexible fund totaling $250,000 became available for county- specific needs this year. Department officials targeted this year’s allotment toward a summer work program for youths and plan to apply 2007’s flexible funds toward adult training and education.

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