CLEARFIELD – The possibility of drastic cuts in court and social services funding in the Pennsylvania budget continues to be a concern for the Clearfield County Commissioners.
According to previous GANT News reports, in early April, the House passed H.B. 218. When proposed, it was approximately $800 million less than Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal.
Under H.B. 218, Clearfield County would have a drastic cut to criminal, justice, administration and reimbursement funding, totaling $256,544.
More specifically, funding cuts, as proposed, would affect the following areas: Juvenile Probation, $20,031; Adult Probation, $48,590; Intermediate Punishment Programs, $70,876; Trial Reimbursement, $50,000; Court Reimbursement, $14,728; Juror Cost Reimbursement, $31,500; Human Services Development Fund, $12,180; and Homeless Assistance, $8,639.
At an April 25 meeting, the commissioners voted, 2-1, to approve enacting a resolution in opposition of H.B. 218 and sending it to the county’s elected Pennsylvania officials.
Commissioner John A. Sobel cast the lone nay vote at the time. He wanted to speak with officials first about the proposed House budget bill.
On Tuesday, he said officials were all willing to speak with him and listen to the commissioners’ concerns.
“Clearfield County, along with the entire [commonwealth of] Pennsylvania, is amidst an opioid crisis and a general drug problem,” he said. “It’s seriously impacting the county, so now is not the time.”
While local Pennsylvania officials took interest and all understood, Sobel said they were also uncertain how drastic the cuts would be in the final budget.
“Because we don’t know any more now than we did several weeks ago, I want to come out and support the resolution approved by Commissioners [Tony] Scotto and [Mark] McCracken,” he said.
“It’s very critical that there not be cuts in the courts and social services because Clearfield County is under certain mandates and our county employees are the boots on the ground.”
According to McCracken, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) has been very intense in lobbying against the proposed H.B. 218 with House and Senate members.
He said it was his understanding that the Pennsylvania Senate wasn’t in agreement with the entire House Bill. He added that: “There’s a gray area, and we won’t know until the final budget.
“County Commissioners – all across Pennsylvania – are hoping they don’t rush a budget through, so that they can leave for summer.
“If there are cuts proposed for courts and social services, we want them to really think them through.”
Sobel and McCracken said if Pennsylvania’s budget passed and cuts were drastic, they would have to sit down with the judge and department heads.
Both said the commissioners would have to find the funding to maintain mandated services and have an effective budget, but they may have to “spread out” its staffing and efforts.
Additionally, both admitted drastic cuts to courts and social services could have a trickle-down effect and mean for cuts in non-mandated department areas.
“We are certainly hoping we don’t have to have this discussion, but we may have to,” Sobel said.
Sobel and McCracken said that they anticipate a final Pennsylvania budget within the next week or so.