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Social Services requests decreased budget for coming year

Rowan’s largest government agency in total employees and yearly expenses has submitted a budget to the county that’s almost $500,000 less than its projected expenses for the current fiscal year.

Staff of the Rowan County Department of Social Services presented its draft budget to its board Tuesday. The Department of Social Services budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which includes additional employees and new software, is $463,618 less than its current year budget. A continuation budget, which was also presented Tuesday, shows a sharper reduction in requested county funds.

The total amount of county funds requested in the draft budget with new employees and computer software is $7.3 million. The continuation budget’s total amount is $7.19 million.

It’s the first time in recent memory, Social Services Board Chairman Jim Sides said, the department has requested a budget that’s less than the current fiscal year. As a former county commissioner, Sides, during the meeting, recalled annual requests for increases in the Social Services Department’s dating back to 2004. He said the decreased budget was impressive, especially considering the requested additions.

“I hope that you let the commissioners know, when you present the budget, that we are doing more as an agency than we’ve ever done,” Sides said to the Social Services Department staff. “We’re providing more assistance to more people in the county than has ever been provided, and we’re doing it next year with almost $500,000 less in Rowan County’s tax dollars.”

The largest single line item in both budgets is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Work First programs. Through Work First, parents can get short-term training and other services to help them become employed and self-sufficient, according to the North Carolina Department of Social Services.

The draft budget shows some areas of Social Services showing a decrease in funding, while others show increases.

“When we told the county manager (Aaron Church) that we were very pleased with our budget this year, we really meant it,” said Social Services Department Director Donna Fayko during the meeting.

Rowan’s Social Services staff also estimated the department would receive more than $200 million in state and federal funding for its programs. In total, the department’s total requested budget — including county funds — is $245.9 million. The largest single line item in the Social Services Department budget is Medicaid and transportation — paid for through state and federal funds – at $181.4 million.

All entities that receive county funding, excluding fire departments and the school system, recently turned in draft budgets to Church. Commissioners have not yet begun holding budget work sessions for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

A series of meetings is scheduled between Church and county departments through mid-April. A public hearing on the county’s budget is expected to be held in early June. The county’s budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year must be approved by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners before July 1, which is the start of the next fiscal year.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

 

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