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Thursday, April 19 News

Health and Human Services on a tight budget

It's budget season in New Canaan and the numbers are looking quite high. Last week, the Board of Selectmen recommended an 11.2 percent increase to the town's 2014-15 budget, which would bring the total to $146,949,138.

But there are a few departments that are proposing much smaller increases. One of them, the town's Health and Human Services, is requesting a $690,554 budget, a 1.5 percent increase over the 2013-14 fiscal year.

During the Board of Finance's first in-depth look at the 2014-15 budget proposal on Feb. 4, alternate member John Kanter asked Carol McDonald, Human Services director, why the department was not asking for more money.

McDonald said the department did the best it could to shift money around instead of requesting a big increase.

One example was in the outside agencies budget line. The department spends $154,000 to help fund several agencies, including the Outback Teen Center, New Canaan Cares, Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Norwalk Transit District and Getabout. This year, Health and Human Services is not requesting an increase to this budget line, but McDonald said the money was shifted around to help support a new effort by New Canaan Cares.

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Due to the changes, New Canaan Cares would receive $8,000 more in funds from the department while Outback and the Norwalk Transit District would see a $2,500 decrease. Getabout would see a $2,000 decrease.

"We look at that every year and we also look at what is going on in the community," McDonald said. "And we try to use (the funds) in the best way possible."

Youth and Family Services Coordinator Jackie D'Louhy said the increase for New Canaan Cares would help the agency hire a part-time person to promote work on underage drinking programs in New Canaan.

One of the projects the department also hopes to take on more aggressively this year is the Tele-Health Program, which would allow seniors to age in their own homes with the benefit of tele-health video technology and regular personal support from a health care professional.

In addition, the department is working to build a community calendar for residents to stay up-to-date on youth activities going on in town.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter