Parents who get their child care expenses subsidized by Westchester County will soon have to contribute more to participate in the program.
A state Supreme Court justice on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by some members of the county Board of Legislators who challenged the right of the County Executive Rob Astorino’s administration to set the contribution levels for families enrolled in the county’s non-mandated, subsidized day care program.
Justice Robert A. Neary rejected the case brought by several Democratic members of the Board of Legislators, including Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), challenging the authority of Commissioner of Social Services Kevin McGuire to raise parent contributions in order to keep the day care program solvent.
In the court decision Neary said that the board of legislators did not put enough money into the budget line to support a 20-percent cap for parental contribution and the McGuire had the authority to raise the family share up to 35 percent to make up for the budget shortfall. Additionally Nealy determined that the legislators did not have the responsibility of setting the rate of contributions.
The county executive praised Monday’s decision.
“This ruling vindicates our approach,” said Astorino. “No one wants to see the family share increased. But when programs are running out of money, you have to act. Increasing the family share was an unfortunate but necessary action to shore up the solvency of our day care program. By under-funding the program, the Board of Legislators left us no choice.”
Non-mandated day care is for families whose income is above the federal poverty line by as much as 275 percent. These families pay a portion of the day care based on the amount of their income that is over the poverty level. The current sliding scale of parental contributions is capped at 20 percent, an increase of 5 percent over 2011.
In May, McGuire proposed increasing the parental contribution to 35 percent, from 20 percent, because he claimed that the county would run out of money in that budget line to continue paying for the day care program.
McGuire followed the necessary procedures to change the parental share, including getting approval from the state Office for Children and Family Services, the court said.
“The court finds that actions taken by the commissioner…were proper as they were specifically authorized by state law and state regulations,” Neary wrote.
Jenkins released a statement regarding the court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.
“Judge Neary’s decision will hurt thousands of low-income Westchester residents, many of them single mothers working hard to make a better life for themselves and their children,” the statement stated. “It’s important to keep fighting for the people of this county who need our support, and so we will. Our legal team will appeal this decision.”
The increase is expected to cost families affected an additional $5.77 a day. Astorino’s administration claims an additional 622 children will be able to be served by this program because of the increased parental contribution.
Westchester County budgets $32.5 million on child care subsidies. Families who are on temporary assistance and receive free day care account for $7.6 million in federal and county funds.
The new rates are expected to be implemented in about six weeks.