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July 26, 2012 permalink
The Children's Aid Society of Simcoe County (Barrie) has overspent its budget by $1.5 million. A plea for more money appears in the press. Usually the province responds by appropriating enough money to cover the shortfall. But when several societies tried to pressure the province for more money in 2010, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services used its powers under the CFSA to fire the board and management of one obstreperous CAS, that in Huron-Perth. Which way will it go this time? We will find out soon.
Children's Aid Society has $1.5M shortfall on the books
The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of Simcoe County is at “extreme financial risk,” says Simcoe County councillor and Penetanguishene Mayor Gerry Marshall.
Though the CAS has had a $1.5-million shortfall on its books for years, the organization’s board approved a 2012 budget that could leave them millions of dollars in debt at the end of this fiscal term, Marshall wrote in an e-mail to QMI Agency.
In May, the Simcoe County CAS — funded entirely by the province — submitted an operating budget of approximately $41 million for the year starting April 1 and ending March 31, 2013, but is still filling out paperwork to determine the amount it will be receiving.
Although the organization has its budget drawn up by March, it operates for at least three months of its fiscal year every year without knowing how much funding it will actually be allocated.
“There’s a gap there between what we need and what the ministry is providing,” said Susan Carmichael, executive director of the Simcoe County CAS, adding while the province has come through and paid off the organization’s deficit in years past, “it’s feeling different this year.”
“All sectors across the province are being asked to manage with limited resources. We’re all being asked to submit an expenditure management plan to balance our budget,” she said.
That was one of Marshall’s prime concerns when he, as the county representative on the organization’s board, voted against passing the deficit.
“Times have changed at the provincial level,” he said.
“The current answer to most funding questions that is coming from the Queen’s Park folks runs along the lines of, ‘Sorry, but we have no money,’ ” Marshall said.
It’s a dance between fiscal responsibility and providing quality service, Carmichael said.
“We have two bottom lines. We have a financial bottom line, but we have a bottom line to provide good service as well,” she said. “We could balance our budget tomorrow, but it would mean families wouldn’t get the services they need.”
The organization is always looking for ways to cut costs, she said, but has to have the resources to respond to calls right when they come in.
“While I disagreed with approving the budget, I appreciate the simple fact that the Children’s Aid Society is driven by calls to action,” Marshall said. “When the phone rings, we have to move and react.
“There is no other choice.”
Like other CAS organizations across Ontario, the Simcoe County CAS has a mandate to protect and promote the well being of children and youth. It served an estimated 1,200 families last year and currently has 455 children in its care.
The organization has been making cuts in areas that do not directly impact front-line service since 2010. It has reduced infrastructure costs by decreasing the amount it spends on building and parking lot maintenance, holding off on management decisions and doing away with a class for children with behavioural difficulties in Midland.
“It is absolutely mind-boggling to me that the province has left the legacy $1.5 million unaddressed,” Marshall said.
“At the provincial level, $1.5 million is less than a mathematical rounding error. For the province to put this type of stress on a group that is trying to assist and protect the most vulnerable of our citizens is an unnecessary burden.”
Source: Barrie Examiner