Anna Simo, BCAA director, said during last week’s court meeting that as of then, they were short 65 students in the Head Start program.
“We are currently lacking 65 students — 38 from Ayala..., two in Refugio, 15 in Skidmore, 10 in Woodsboro.”
She added that the Live Oak program is fully enrolled.
This decreased enrollment will mean that the program is receiving $455,000 too much money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“We are already scheduled to receive our full base federal funding,” she said.
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt questioned, “How we are going to handle the students we are lacking?
“Let’s say we cannot increase enrollment by a single student.
“Is that money going to have to be paid back by the taxpayers of Bee County?”
Simo said that she is working to get answers and hopes that they will be able to keep the additional money despite having the fewer projected students.
“We are going to see if our funding agency is going to go ahead and allow us to reduce our funded enrollment and increase our funding,” she said. “We are going to have to work with our funding agency to see what we are going to be allowed to do.”
DeWitt said that his concern was that they would have a repeat of what occurred recently with the Senior Meals Program.
Only a couple of court meetings ago, commissioners were told by Simo that the meals program was going to be short on funds.
The court will have to fund about $66,000 to keep that program running through the fiscal year. Initially that amount would have been $85,000 but they were able to cut costs and whittle it down.
Simo told commissioners during that meeting about a month ago that they have been working for months to find the funds to keep the program going but had been unsuccessful.
The meals program provides food to elderly, disadvantaged people within the county, either by delivery to their home or served at a central location.
Simo said that they were able to reduce expenses by reducing employee hours, giving furloughs to administrative staff and other cost-saving measures.
Fortunately, the Alice Community Action Agency has agreed to pick up where Bee County is leaving off.
Paperwork and contracts have not yet been signed. They are also still working out the details of funding and logistics, but their director seemed confident they could get this worked out as she knows just how important these meals are to those receiving them.
Simo said they are working to ensure that the shortfalls that occurred with the meal program don’t occur with Head Start.
“We have already started communicating with our funding agency,” she said. “I think we are at that point where we are going to request a reduced enrollment level.”
She added that there is more to increasing enrollment than just adding students though.
“We have been through this several years back when weren’t able to meet enrollment funding,” she said. “It seems we are in that scenario again.
“There are two factors here. We have to be fully enrolled and we have to have a healthy waiting list.”
There are currently about 24 families on the waiting list.
“We want to have a healthy waiting list,” she reiterated, which means they cannot just accept everyone into the program.
Simo agreed to notify the court as soon as she hears from the funding agency, although that could be months into the budget year.
DeWitt said, “I don’t want to get blindsided again.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.