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County’s social service funds down

Profile image for By Bj Lewis
By Bj Lewis

Agencies to receive less than requested as source of money drops

A number of social service agencies will receive a lot less in funding from Denton County than they asked for, officials said.

While county commissioners mull a proposed $238.3 million budget for fiscal year 2015, including departmental appeals, one thing they are set on is a recommendation from the county’s social service committee to lower funding to agencies that help children and poor or disadvantaged residents.

“It’s disappointing, but we will do what we have to do to make ends meet,” said Dan Leal, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County.

The center requested $108,162 from the county but was recommended to receive only $31,874 for the job it does working with law enforcement, including the Denton County Sheriff’s Office and the district attorney, to help investigate crimes against children.

“We at the advocacy center are not going to decrease service. We will do everything in our power to make that up with other funding sources,” Leal said. “We ask all the cities and the county for funding based on a fair-share calculation of services provided to residents.”

Counties receive payments each year from a settlement with tobacco companies based on a pro rata share of their unreimbursed health care expenses. The amount can vary depending on interest earnings and amounts reported by other entities.

Among the agencies that receive this funding are Denton County Friends of the Family, PediPlace, Youth & Family Counseling, the Christian Community Action clinic and Court Appointed Special Advocates of Denton County.

Tobacco settlement proceeds in general have been on the decline for several years, though in the 2014 budget year there was a bump in available funds. Funding is back down again this year.

Social service agencies requested a total of $444,651 this year, but only $250,000 was recommended.

The committee that recommends funding allocations is made up of residents appointed by the Commissioners Court. County Judge Mary Horn said it was difficult this year to get everyone together to meet on the issue. Through email communication, committee members agreed to cut each agency’s portion by the same percentage.

“Whatever the recommendation is, is what we generally [do],” Horn said.

Teri Johnson, community outreach director for Health Services of North Texas, said her agency has a grant writer on staff who spends a lot of time writing grant proposals and trying to bring money to the county.

“The care we’re providing is costly, and 70 percent of our patients are uninsured,” Johnson said. “They utilize a sliding fee scale. They may pay a nominal $20 fee for a service that costs $120. There is a gap, and those funds are crucial.”

The agency requested $125,000 from the county and was recommended for $79,685.

“There are a lot of local funding opportunities — the Flow [Health Care Foundation] grant, the Denton Benefit League, the United Way — various organizations that contribute to the work we do to provide health care to the community,” Johnson said. “We are very thankful for the grants we do receive. That is why we are working hard every day to bring resources into our community.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.