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BV Supervisors troubled by Cherokee juvenile detention center's financial losses

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Following a report the juvenile detention center in Cherokee had allegedly turned away a transfer from a competing center in Eldora that was full, one Buena Vista County Supervisor voiced concern during a recent meeting.

"When they (Central Iowa Juvenile Detention) had to bump a kid out, they called YES, who had beds available but would not accept kids," Supervisor Paul Merten said. "In my mind, that was $5,000 the YES (Youth Emergency Services) Center could pick up in a month, but they would not do it."

Although member counties are charged $50 per day at CIJD and $150 per day at the YES Center, reimbursement would have occurred at the YES Center's rate.

Since BV County holds dual membership with the YES Center and CIJD to ensure lower rates, two Supervisors serve as board members.

Supervisor Ken Hach, a YES Center Board Member, said he thought juveniles had been turned away by the director because they were too "problematic."

"Based on conversation with the other center that took juveniles, it was not worth having extra people to manage the juvenile," Hach said.

Merten, a CIJD board member, did not agree.

"That is absolutely not true that they sent the worst kids," he retorted.

Being selective with which juveniles to accept from other centers could lead to problems.

"Picking and choosing clients - that's a real slippery slope to start down if you are already hurting for revenue," Supervisor Dale Arends said. "It seems like a higher-level decision that should be made by the board, not the director."

The issue will likely be discussed further at an upcoming YES Center board meeting in November.

Recent budget projections estimate the YES Center, also known as Northwest Iowa Multicounty Regional Juvenile Detention Center, will lose approximately $32,000 this year. Based on previous years, the forthcoming audit should be completed in March 2013.

Finances for the center have fluctuated the past eight years. According to reports filed with the Iowa Auditor of State's Office, the YES Center's highest operating loss occurred in 2009, when operating costs showed a loss of $150,315, decreasing year-end net assets from $537,390 in 2008 to $398,023 in 2009.

From 2004 to 2008, audits further demonstrate the YES Center had been rebuilding its finances, increasing its year-end net assets from $248,507 to $537,390. However, losses began again in 2009, continuing through the most recent audit in 2011, settling with a year-end net asset balance of $296,000 in 2011.

Between 2003 and 2010, CIJD's audits show an average operating gain of $295,839.38 per year. The only recent operating loss was reported in 2011, at $150,182.

While its income has been affected by a decrease in state reimbursement and fewer incarcerated juveniles, the YES Center appears to be holding CIJD partially responsible for its financial state.

"One juvenile detention center in Iowa has become a competitive facility, which has placed an undue burden upon the Center, as the competing facility has cut per diem rates in order to undercut the Center's operations and begin a price war," the YES Center's most recent audit asserts.

According to Hach, no plans are in place to increase the YES Center's daily rate in order to make up for lost revenue.

"I would think, at some point, they would have to address the shortfall," Merten said.

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How does the manager of a place owned and operated by the taxpayers feel they have the right to deny business? By not taking this kid or these kids, how much money did they lose, all of which will be made up by us the taxpayers. This is ludicrous. A follow up article seems necessary.

-- Posted by joetaxpayer on Sat, Nov 17, 2012, at 5:11 PM

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