Monday, April 28, 2008

Juvenile probation departments may lose federal funds for administrative costs

I'd mentioned last week that the Texas juvenile probation system received a boost of $57.9 million in its state budget for this biennium, and legislators were surprised their caseload hadn't risen as anticipated.

I wanted to follow up on that, because it severely misstated matters to imply juvie probation budgets went up by that amount. The were supposed to, but that's not what's actually happening on the ground.

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing April 22, Texas Juvenile Probation Commission director Vicki Spriggs told the committee about a likely revenue shortfall facing county juvenile justice systems because of a proposed rule reinterpretation that could reduce their federal "Title 4E" funding by $54 million this biennium. News of this federal decision, she said, came after the end of the 80th legislative session.

The reduction could come because the Bush administration reinterpreted existing rules related to "administrative claiming" by local probation departments - i.e., how much of their administrative overhead costs they could get reimbursed by the federal government. The law wasn't changed, and the rules weren't changed, but the feds decided to interpret them more stringently in the past and launched an audit to determine how far counties are out of compliance with the new interpretation.

According to TJPC attorney Lisa Capers, whom I spoke to on Friday, counties have already stopped receiving this money pending the feds' final decision, which could come in the next few months.

Here's the rub: Administrative claiming funds could be used by departments for virtually anything they needed, while new state funds came with strings attached for how they could be used. The state added $8.7 million to the basic funding formula, $13.8 million for intensive probation, and $35.3 million for residential services, according to the handout Spriggs gave committee members. That was much needed, but it's not a dollar for dollar replacement for lost federal funds, by any stretch.

This will cause problems for the counties soon if it hasn't already. It's a good thing probation caseloads haven't risen under the new system, because if this goes through the money budgeted wouldn't be enough to pay for the expansion in services they thought they were getting when legislators created the budget.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scott I'm calling bull S$%^& on this one. How can there be a lost of all the funidng if the feds havent came back with a final decision. Then this dumb azzz director says referals are down because of the headlines of the TYC downfall. WTF....Guess crime should have increased since the halt on executions. PLEASE

Hope this is better tomorrow at the house hearing

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What Lisa Capers told me is that the feds have already stopped paying the counties and they're waiting, essentially, on an appeal, but I haven't talked to any locals about it.

Maybe our pal Plato or others from local juvie probation departments can confirm or refute that.

Anonymous said...

How will this affect the counties if TYC folds and they get the bulk of kids committing crimes?

Anonymous said...

Stop worrying. TYC is not going to fold. Look at what has happened with other agencies Whitmire has "reformed." They will get a name change and some cosmetic changes and will continue on. The big guessing game in Austin is which agency is next?

Anonymous said...

The Feds work to slow. We hired an attorney that worked with a consulting firm for our son. The Court and TYC addressed the problem and we were able to have our son released. Seems like action was quickly taken on the our sons behalf when the consulting firm addressed our placement issue with the DA and pressed TYC for answers regarding his treatment. We need more advocacy like this for our youth to keep TYC in check and prevent unwarranted and abusive youth placements in TYC. Thank you TJJC.

Anonymous said...

What is TJJC 10:58am?

JJ said...

Scott -- got some answers and explanation about Title IV-E funds but don't have time to explain what these are and how federal funds are passed down to us right now.

To anon at 10:31 - calm down with the name calling... Ms. Spriggs works very hard and is very well respected in the state and the country for that matter. Tread lightly !!

Referrals (juvenile arrests) have been on the decline since 2001 (despite increases in juvenile population) and from the testimony I heard I don't believe Ms. Spriggs was real serious about the TYC issues playing a factor.

Anonymous said...

TJJC is Texas Juvenile Justice Consulting. They have a website.

Anonymous said...

Grits - yes, the money is presently on hold while the feds make a decision on this. But, we are not in danger of losing all of the IV-E admin funds. Maybe a small percentage. One of the problems is county departments have been using these funds for any and everything (someone might say "abusing" the expenditure of these funds. Many of the more "enlightened" departments have focused these funds on IV-E type kids providing services/placements for them. County departments, IMO, brought this fire down on their own asses!

Of course the feds, much like God, works in strange and mysterious ways, thus, it takes months for the feds to review and make a decision in this matter. TJPC has done a whale of a job fighting and negotiating for county departments and we'll win in the end to a great extent.

So - the long and the short of all this is "move along - nothing to see here."

Plato

Anonymous said...

Plato - seems your opinion may be a little off as the feds are the ones who approved the processes for the requests for the funds... How could this be the fault of the county departments?

Fact is they didn't like the increases in the amount of funding coming down to Texas through Title IV-E administrative claims. If some counties were abusing the requests for these reimbursements then they should have to re-pay the money to the feds. That is what the problem has been not how the money has been spent.

We will see a big reduction in these funds in the future.

Anonymous said...

12:18 -don't dispute anything you said. My point is that the money is supposed to be directed (the spirit of the law) at those who qualify for the program. Also, when the program was introduced in Texas several years ago, statewide money drawn down was around $5 million or so. Nowdays, it's in the 50's of millions (or more) which caused the feds to take a closer look at us and look for ways to close the tap down. County departments have not done themselves any favors by pissing off huge amounts of money for non-related IV-E stuff.

Plato