House Budgetwriters Offer New Plan For Sununu Youth Center

Mar 27, 2017

The House Finance Committee on Monday included in its budget blueprint a proposal to address underutilization at the state’s only juvenile detention center.

The Sununu Youth Center in Manchester has 144 beds, only half of which are being used on a daily basis.

The House Finance Committee on Monday included in its budget blueprint a proposal to address underutilization at the state’s only juvenile detention center.

The Sununu Youth Center in Manchester has 144 beds, only half of which are being used on a daily basis.

Under the measure, the facility would be reduced by three-quarters to 36 beds in total. And only those who are serious violent offenders could be placed here.

That means other juveniles would be treated in less restrictive environments. Michael Skibbie of the Disabilities Rights Center, who helped lawmakers craft this policy change, says this is a step in the right direction.

 

The Sununu Youth Center in Manchester currently holds 144 beds, only half of which are being used on a daily basis.
Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR

“It ensures that we still have capacity for those kids who are truly dangerous but recognizes that many of the children at the Sununu Center can be successfully and less expensively treated in alternative places,” Skibbie said.

Chairman of the House Finance Committee Neal Kurk called this policy change one of the most significant parts of the House's budget proposal. 

“We have done something that is better for the children of the state who get in trouble with in the law in terms of providing them services in the community where they are likely to do better than they are if they got those same services in the Sununu Center and we did so at the savings to the taxpayers – and that is truly a win, win," Kurk said.

The proposal is estimated to save the state $1.4 million over the next two years. There will also be a reduction of roughly 45 jobs but under the measure those affected would be offered early retirement as well as first priority for any open positions within the department.

But the House budget as currently proposed by the Finance Committee also includes some other items that differ from Governor Chris Sununu's proposed spending plan. Those items include new revenue sources such as the electronic bingo game, Keno, which is projected to bring in $16.5 million over the biennium as well as mobile lottery tickets, which are calculated to bring in $15 million.

The House's plan also includes funding for local roads, bridges as well as school building aid but figures slightly lower than what the Governor proposed. Unlike the Governor's proposal, the House's current version does not put money towards full-day kindergarten programs nor money to establish a new college scholarship fund for instate students based on academic excellence and financial need. The plan also reduces money for the so-called "Alcohol Fund," which takes a portion of state liquor sales to put towards substance abuse treatment and prevention,  by roughly $3 million over the next biennium.

 

Gov. Chris Sununu presented his budget proposal at the Statehouse back in February.
Credit NHPR

The House Finance Committee did; however, keep funding levels the same as the Governor's when it comes to services for the developmental disabilities, which saw a $57 million increase in Sununu's version from the current biennium as well as flat funding for the University and Community College Systems.

Overall the House's version as proposed by the House Finance Committee comes in at $11.89 billion, which is about $225 million less than the Governor's spending plan.

But changes could still be made to the House's budget before it goes before the full body next Wednesday. After that, the Senate then has its turn to  work on the state’s new spending plan.