Social Services to ask for nine new positions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
Salisbury Post
The Rowan County Department of Social Services is requesting nine new positions in its proposed 2008-2009 budget.
Three of those would not require any county money, Director Sandra Wilkes told the Board of Social Services Tuesday night. She prioritized the nine positions in case Rowan County commissioners do not approve all of them.
Her first priority ó a trainer for the adult Medicaid programs ó would be responsible for training the 14 caseworkers. “I see it as a real need,” Wilkes said.
Five of the caseworkers have only two to three years’ experience, while the other nine have been hired since July 1 of last year.
In exit interviews with their supervisors, Wilkes said resigning caseworkers have said they felt incompetent trying to handle their caseloads with little training. “They were afraid they would make a mistake,” she said. “It’s just a very unsettling feeling.”
Wilkes said she believes a trainer position would bring stability to the staff and reduce turnover.
At present, the department contracts with Vanguard Professional Staffing to hire temporary employees with social services experience to train new employees. “It’s costly to contract with someone,” she said.
Half of the $42,954 salary of the trainer, whose job would be classified as an income maintenance caseworker III, would be reimbursed with state and/or federal funds.
A social work supervisor II position is given second priority in the proposed budget. Wilkes said the position would supervise seven social workers and their programs, one office assistant III position and the coordinator for Carolina Access, the primary care case management health care plan for Medicaid citizens.
The new position would take the responsibility of supervising the nine employees off Carol Addington, adult program administrator, Wilkes said, and free her up to spend more time supervising the supervisors and other administrative duties such as planning.
Board member John Blair said having Addington supervise the 11 positions for which she is now responsible could be a liability because she doesn’t have enough time to supervise all of them closely. “We’re just sitting on a lawsuit,” he said.
Board member Lillian Morgan said taking some of the load off Addington would bring her responsibilities more in line with the responsibilities of other program administrators.
Wilkes said the first of two Child Protective Services investigator positions is her third priority. The volume of work in the division was so high this year, she said, that the department had to hire three temporary employees through Vanguard Professional Staffing to handle the workload.
“The request is to end the Vanguard contract and establish a regular position for a CPS investigator,” Wilkes wrote in her justification for the position. The money for the temporary employees came from lapsed salaries.
The salary for the position would be $45,117.
Wilkes said her fourth priority is a Child Protective Services case manager, for which half of the $45,117 salary would be reimbursed by state and/or federal funds.
Wilkes’ fifth priority is for an office assistant III position for children’s services, which would provide support for three programs: Rowan for Kids, Child Placement Support and One Church One Child. The position would take the clerical responsibilities off the coordinators of the three programs, she said, allowing them to devote their full attention to the professional aspects of their jobs.
Half of the $23,814 salary would be reimbursed with state and/or federal funds.
Wilkes’ sixth priority is the second CPS investigator position, which would be funded by state Child Day Care Administrative funds if a proposed subsidy increase is passed by the General Assembly.
Her last three priorities are for: (No. 7) a social worker I position for the child day care program which is contingent on the General Assembly’s approval of administrative funds to cover the full cost of salary and overhead; and (Nos. 8 and 9) two temporary income maintenance technician positions to accept applications, interview applicants, determine eligibility and process applications for the seasonal Low-Income Energy Assistance Program.
Wilkes said the positions would be for 304 hours apiece with a total salary of $3,481 per employee.
The proposed continuation budget calls for $10.4 million in county funds, down from $14.3 million last year due to the first phase of a state plan to eliminate counties’ Medicaid share.
The proposed expansion budget calls for $11.8 million in county funds, down from $10.7 million last year for the same reason.
Blair complimented Wilkes for doing a good job justifying the positions. “It’s a very comprehensive budget,” he said. “I don’t know what else to do except move for approval.”
Morgan seconded the motion, which passed by a unanimous vote.
The budget will now go to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners for review. Jim Sides, who represents the commission on the Board of Social Services, said, “Most likely, there won’t be nine positions approved.”
“I think we will get some of the positions,” he added, “and I will fight for some of them. I’m not sure I will fight for all of them.”
Sides said, however, that he agrees with the justification Wilkes provided for the positions. The problem, he said, is that every department needs more positions.
“When you have limited funds, you can only do so much,” he said. “The reality is, all the money’s available if we raise taxes, but it’s not going to happen in an election year.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or kchaffin@salisburypost.com.

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