State agencies offer more painful possibilities for budget cuts

Some DMV offices could close. Housing subsidies for those with AIDS could be cut. And hundreds more state jobs could be eliminated by privatizing services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Residents could have to pay more for a state police background check on a potential employee or babysitter, and nursing homes found to present an imminent danger could be fined $10,000 instead of the current $5,000.

Southbury Training School is a home for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The agency proposes closing its fire department.

Connecticut Department of Developmental Services

The fire department at Southbury Training School, which serves people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, is proposed for elimination to save $1.6 million.

These are just some of the options for making cuts and generating revenue that state agencies have offered Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget office as it prepares a 2017-18 budget proposal to put before legislators.

Many of the agency proposals further reduce the ranks of state employees or drastically reduce or eliminate programs that help vulnerable residents.

This fiscal year the state has cut more than $800 million in spending, has laid off nearly 1,100 workers to date, intends to lay off another 500 in January, and has left hundreds of positions empty.

The governor’s budget office has told state agencies that 10 percent cuts in discretionary spending are “likely” as the state grapples with a projected deficit of $1.5 billion for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Malloy said Tuesday his proposal for the next state budget probably will not call for any major tax hikes, though he might recommend some tax incentives to spur business growth. He is expected to recommend deep cuts to spending not fixed by contract.

State agencies were told to offer proposals for cutting their budget’s by 10 percent. Here’s a partial rundown of what they proposed:

    • Between 2,700 and 5,000 children would lose their day care subsidies. (Savings: $24.5 million)
    • The University of Connecticut said it would have to cut financial aid or eliminate  286 staff positions to save $38.1 million, 10 percent of the state’s contribution to UConn’s budget. The university said a 10 percent cut to the UConn Health center to save $21.6 million “would be devastating to the institution, jeopardizing the viability of the clinical operations.”
    • Programs at hospitals and health clinics that screen pregnant women and children for depression and other health and safety concerns – and assist them in enrolling in Medicaid – would lose state aid. These programs serve about 3,200 pregnant and new moms each year in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury. About one-third are undocumented immigrants, and when they are denied Medicaid this program helps connect them with other available community services. (Savings $754,000)
    • The last 21 state-run group homes for those with intellectual disabilities would be privatized. The Department of Developmental Services is currently privatizing 40 group homes for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, but a union representing state workers is seeking an injunction to stop the changes. Families of adults in the group homes also have sought to stop the privatization, saying their loved ones had developed trusting relationships with the state workers who staff the homes. The majority of DDS group homes are currently run by private, nonprofit agencies. Privatizing the remaining 21 group homes would affect 116 clients, and eliminate 118 state jobs. (Savings: $1.7 million)
    • Programs that help prepare dozens of infants and toddlers from low-income families for school, and inform parents of their rights, would lose state aid. The programs are located in Middletown, New London and Torrington. The state Office of Early Childhood said the cut would result in “60 children not reaching their full learning potential, 45 of the state’s most disadvantaged families not becoming full partners in their children’s education and support, elimination of intensive family services, and elimination of summer programming, leading to summer learning loss.” (Savings $438,000)
  • A program that helps 31 low-income Hispanic senior citizens in New Britain apply for services would be eliminated. (Savings: $18,000)
  • One of the state’s regional ombudsmen who investigates residents’ complaints and conditions at long-term care facilities would not be filled when the watchdog retires. The Institute of Medicine recommends states have one ombudsman for every 2,000 residents. Connecticut currently has one ombudsman for every 4,000 residents. The state Department on Aging said the loss would require them to prioritize cases and assign more to the remaining ombudsmen. (Savings: $90,500)
  • Two positions in the Department of Banking that respond to consumer complaints would be eliminated, which would “significantly impact the agency’s ability to respond to consumer complaints.” (Savings $255,000) Eliminating five positions in another unit would “jeopardize the agency’s requirements to investigate entities we regulate.” (Savings $443,000)
  • The Department of Developmental Services would close the Southbury Training School fire department, eliminating 13 jobs. Relatives of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities have pointed to the fire department as an example of unnecessary spending at the institution, and say the money could be better used to serve more people. DDS said it has been discussing transitioning services with the town of Southbury. Closing the fire department would eliminate 13 jobs. (Savings: $1.6 million)
  • Special funding for specific arts and culture events, museums and venues would be eliminated. Instead, these vendors would have to compete for a smaller pool of funding. Programs that currently receive these grants include the Hartford Urban Arts Grant, Connecticut Science Center, Litchfield Jazz Festival, Greater Hartford Arts Council and the Mark Twain House. (Savings: $3.3 million)
  • Funding to help homeless people pay a security deposit would be reduced and serve fewer people (Savings: $60,000). Housing assistance for low-income residents with HIV or AIDS would be reduced (Savings: $527,000). Funding would be cut for homeless shelters, which “may increase the unsheltered homeless population as well as increase the amount of time an individual or family is homeless,” the Department of Housing said (Savings: $870,000).
  • The Department of Housing also would stop providing new people with housing subsidies as they move out of nursing homes or homeless shelters. (Savings: $3.5 million)
  • A program run by the Department of Labor that helps veterans find jobs would be eliminated (Savings $158,000). A program to help manufacturing companies provide training to their employees for emerging market needs, such as green technology, also would be eliminated (Savings $588,00). Other job-placement and training programs for chronically unemployed or recently incarcerated residents and youths would be significantly scaled back.
  • The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services offered options that would save $25.2 million. They included reducing or delaying growth in caseloads and saving money on state employee overtime by relocating inpatient and detox beds from Hartford to Middletown (doing so would not reduce the total number of beds).
  • Drivers would only be issued one license plate instead of two for their vehicles, which “may hinder law enforcement,” the Department of Motor Vehicles said. (Savings: $406,000)
  • Undocumented immigrants would have to wait longer to get a drivers license. DMV proposed eliminating six positions responsible for these tests. Currently, appointments are at least one year out. (Savings $305,000)

    Sleeping arrangements for a homeless man under I-84-East in Hartford.

    www.CtMirror.org file photo

    Sleeping arrangements for a homeless man under I-84-East in Hartford.

  • The DMV program that registers voters would struggle to continue after eliminating 20 positions (Savings $742,000). DMV proposed closing various offices, “increasing the risk of significant longer wait times” (Savings: $3.4 million).
  • Funding for rape crisis services and a hotline would be scaled back, which “will result in the reduction of services to victims of sexual violence,” the Department of Public Health said. “Impact could see over 500 victims not receiving services each year,” it said. (Savings: $18,000)
  •  DDS would privatize case management services, which would lead to a reduction of approximately 339 fulltime positions, saving a net $3.1 million. According to the department, all services would still be provided to DDS clients.
  • Health clinics at schools would be cut or possibly closed, reducing mental health and primary care services to 1,134 students. (Savings: $513,000)
  • Three public respite centers, which give caregivers a break by caring for children and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities for brief periods, would be closed. DDS currently operates 10 public respite centers. During the 2016 fiscal year, 992 adults and 184 children used them. The closures would eliminate 14 full-time positions. (Savings: $1.8 million)
  • Admissions would remain closed to the DDS behavioral services program, which serves young people with both a mental health diagnosis and autism or an intellectual disability. It typically helps families receive supports to help them care for their child or adolescent at home. (Savings: $2.2 million)
  • Funding would be reduced by 25 percent for families who receive in-home help through the DDS’s behavioral services program. This would affect approximately 279 people. (Savings: $2.4 million)
  • Individual and family support teams that provide temporary, emergency assistance to people served by DDS would be cut by 25 percent, eliminating nine positions. On average, the teams helped 880 people per quarter during the 2016 fiscal year. (Savings: $735,503)
Revenue generators
  • Families would have to pay either $25 or $50 more to cremate deceased relatives. Each year, about 17,000 cremations take place, each of which requires a $150 cremation certificate. (Revenue: $416,000 to $831,000)
  • Want to check the background of a babysitter or someone else you are considering hiring? The state police are proposing increasing the cost from $50 to $75. (Revenue: $2.6 million)
  • A surcharge would be imposed on the insurance premiums homeowners and renters pay to fund the operating budgets of regional fire schools and to purchase fire equipment. (Revenue: $725,000)
  • Tuition local police departments pay to have their officers become certified would increase by $250 to $2,250. (Revenue: $50,000)
  • The fees and the frequency of fees charged by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection would increase. The department did not outline which fees would increase or by how much. (Revenue $14.3 million)
  • DMV would no longer give vehicle owners refunds when they cancel a registration early. “There may be customer complaints due to implementation of this option,” DMV  reports. (Revenue: $1.3 million)
  • Fines for nursing homes found to present an immediate danger of death or injury would increase from $5,000 to $10,000. (Revenue: $309,000)
  • All babies screened for cystic fibrosis would have to be screened by Connecticut’s Public Health Laboratory, rather than by UConn Health center or Yale University. (Revenue: $300,000)
  • A new fee would be assessed by the Department of Public Health to help with the cost of inspecting more than 600 water companies and testing water quality. (Revenue: $1.5 million)

See all the proposals here.

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