The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 8, 2012

Minding the public's money

Daily Item

---- — Facing a potential 1-mill tax hike, the Snyder County Commissioners are mulling over whether or not to resume funding a Family Preservation Services post that is intended to help keep families intact rather than moving children into foster care or other alternative care settings.

A Children and Youth official said the job pays for itself because without the family preservation effort, the county has had to place some children in foster care who otherwise might have remained in their homes.

In the years that the post existed, the preservation effort saved the county $500,000.

But the data is not conclusive. The year the job was first eliminated, there was a spike in placements; however, in 2012, that spike disappeared.

The Snyder County Commissioners are not all convinced that the Children and Youth ought to create a new position, even if the job is needed. There are 23 people in the agency, Snyder County Commissioner Joe Kantz said, suggesting that county officials might be able to resume offering the family preservation services by adjusting responsibilities of existing staff.

It is the sort of responsible, thoughtful approach to management that quietly takes place regularly in local government and seems all too absent from state and federal government.

While Snyder County mulls that issue, the federal U.S. Department of Justice is preparing to cut a $300,000 check for Bucknell University.

Bucknell University -- an institution with revenue of $233 million in 2010 and charges students almost $200,000 in tuition for four-years of education -- was awarded the federal grant money to launch a special program to combat sexual violence. According to campus crime reports, the university was the site of 14 alleged sexual assaults over the last four years. A Department of Justice representative said the grant money was awarded to the institutions with the best proposal for spending the funds, rather than those that demonstrated the greatest problem with sexual assaults.

The $299,818 grant will fund a prevention coordinator. Fine. It is reasonable for Bucknell officials to do everything in their power to ensure that young people on their campus act responsibly. But there ought to be a more convincing argument to justify shifting the costs to the public.

When local elected officials are struggling mightily to control expenses while satisfying their obligations to the public, their federal counterparts ought to demonstrate that they are capable of applying the same level of fiscal responsibility.