Now that the full Senate has voted out its “marked up” version of the 2016-17 budget, we are one step closer to the end of the 2015 legislative budget process. Conferees on House Bill 1 will resolve differences between the Senate and House proposals before the regular session ends. For child protective services, foster care, child care regulation, adult protective services, and other programs administered by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the House and Senate proposals are not too different.
The identical starting-point Senate and House budget proposals would have budgeted almost $3.3 billion in All Funds for the Department of Family and Protective Services, with $1.7 billion of the total from general revenue.
SCSHB1, the budget proposal approved by the full Senate on April 14, increased DFPS funding to $3.45 billion All Funds, with $1.83 billion coming from general revenue.
Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives finalized its budget proposal, HB 1, which includes $3.50 billion in All Funds for DFPS, $44 million more than the Senate. But the House’s $1.81 billion in general revenue is $23 million below the Senate’s plan.
HB1 and CSHB1 highlights:
- In both the House and Senate plans, DFPS would be able to hire more staff, mostly to maintain fiscal year 2015 staffing, costs, and caseload ratios. The House, however, authorizes 385.2 new full-time staff by 2017, including a new chief data office, while the Senate would only fund 257.7 new positions by 2017, some of which would be for parental child safety placements. (Note: DFPS Rider 20 in the Senate proposal also says that if Texas receives the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families supplemental grant for fiscal year 2016 or 2017, $51.7 million in federal funds would cover the costs of Child Protective Services (CPS) staff, replacing general revenue.)
- To help increase CPS caseworker retention rates, both the House and Senate would create a pay stipend for caseworkers who mentor new employees. The maximum amount of the stipend would be $300 a month.
- Both proposals fund projected entitlement caseload growth (foster care, adoption subsidies, and permanency care assistance), but do not fund an increase for subsidies. The subsidy would decrease from $2,040 in 2016 to $2,029 in 2017, despite the Senate proposing $4.2 million more than the House.
- The Senate proposes a substantial increase in funding for prevention programs, which will help offer services to more youth. For example, the Community Youth Development (CYD) program received $2.3 million (or 19.2 percent) more in funding than what the House approved. By 2017—when most of the funding increase occurs—the Senate proposal for CYD would reach 3,000 more youth than what the House budget would support. Despite the increase in youth served, both proposals project the cost to decrease, meaning in all likelihood that fewer services would be provided per youth.
- The House proposes $3.2 million more in funding for child care regulation, resulting in more child care facility inspections: 42,502 in 2017, compared to the Senate budget’s 42,096.
- The Senate proposal includes $2 million in funding for abusive head trauma prevention (DFPS Rider 37). For this pilot program, DFPS would have to submit a report to the legislature on the effectiveness of the program by September 1, 2017.
- The House proposes $31 million more in funding for agency-wide automated systems, which will help DFPS meet their technology needs.