Cash strapped state agencies are making their case for more money before a Mississippi Legislative Budget Committee.
More than 6,000 children in Mississippi are in state custody according to Child Protection Services. Former State Supreme Court Justice Jess Dickinson is the agency's new commissioner. He asking for $249 million, to hire, train and equip social workers and supervisors. He says the agency, which was under the Department of Human Services needs its own office space to support staff and monitor children and families.
"Right now child protection is spread out over three buildings. We have a number of people working from home because we don't have an office for them. And as I told the committee, we've got a 100 new positions that we have to fill in order to become independent" said Dickinson.
Dickinson says turnover is high among social workers for which the starting salary is $27,000. But he doesn't think legislators will support raises. Republican Senator Buck Clarke of Hollandale is on the legislative budget committee. He says the state economist estimates Mississippi's tax revenue growth at 1 percent. Clarke says the state's budget is $6 billion. He says that one percent adds $60 million which isn't much.
"We've just got to look at each of these agencies that come in and weigh one critical need against another and It's difficult," said Clarke.
The Mississippi Department of Education asked for more funding for programs that it says are working. State Superintendent Carey Wright.
"We're seeing tremendous growth with our pre-k and kindergarten, so the early collaboratives are working. So we've asked for an additional $6 million there," said Wright.
Wright says they want an additional $275 million for items like more literacy coaches, professional development and to fully fund the state's education formula.