State Needs to Encourage Public-Private Partnership

(Published in the Gazette, March 16, 2011)

Raymond Schimmer’s March 6th Viewpoint, regarding the New York State budget bulldozer’s threat to turn the highly successful Healthy Families program to rubble, adroitly points to several endemic features of government budgeting processes.

First, there is rarely, if ever, planning around sustaining programs that actually deliver a return on investment for taxpayers and their communities.  As such, programs that demonstrate effectiveness in preventing more serious and costly symptoms are often the first to go.  And so the cycle of social problems and their escalating costs continues.

Second, the goal of leveraging resources is often lost in the budget frenzy.  The State, by taking Healthy Families out of the budget, eliminates the opportunity to leverage significant federal funding that could make all the difference to thousands of our families and their children.  When programs are seen merely as expenses we obscure the advantages that could be ours had we viewed them as investments.

Third, the governor’s proposal discourages community partnership.  Not only would the State miss out on federal funds, it removes the incentive for private funding that adds value to government support.  The State is not the only party with skin in the game.  The Schenectady Foundation has been a consistent partner with Healthy Schenectady Families, providing $240,000 over the past two years to help serve more families and produce healthier, more resilient children.  The Foundation’s funding also helped to match state funds.  The governor’s proposal would also take the private match off the table.  

What most community-based organizations understand is that none of us have the resources to accomplish our missions alone.  We must work together.  Here in Schenectady County we have aligned more than a dozen private organizations and County government agencies around an initiative called Strengthening Families.  The joint planning and action among these entities has been astonishing – we are truly acting in a spirit of partnership toward achieving community change.

Our work will continue regardless, but will be made nearly impossible if the state budget bulldozer takes out critical resources without carefully assessing the value of what might be lost.  It makes one wonder as to the efficacy of putting the welfare of our children in the path of destruction about to come.  None of us would throw a family in front of an on-coming tornado.  But the effect of the state budget process is not all that dissimilar.  It will tear them apart.

The solution:  reinstate Healthy Families and other proven programs in the state budget, leverage every other available dollar, and embrace the private institutions that know how to get the job done on the ground.

Robert A. Carreau
Executive Director
The Schenectady Foundation