By Debbie Hall
Misinformation about the budget and a comment that the Patrick County Department of Social Services is a suck on the community drew the ire of the agency’s director.
“For some reason, county administration and some members of the Board of Supervisors have deemed it necessary to blame” the department “for its financial problems and the reason” the county has proposed a real estate tax increase, Joan Rodgers, agency director, said.
County Administrator Tom Rose had said the agency’s budget request included a $378,752 salary increase in the department for the upcoming fiscal year, Rodgers said.
“That was big news for me,” her board and staff, Rodgers said. “I did not include such a salary increase nor did I increase my budget by that amount.”
Department employees are slated to receive a 3 percent base salary hike from the state, but the county’s share for that is $4,049, Rodgers said.
Rodgers also took offense at a comment made by Karl Weiss, of the Blue Ridge District. During a March 11 meeting, Weiss said the department “is a suck on this community,” Rodgers recalled.
Weiss apologized for the comment at the onset of the meeting.
After explaining that the agency administers all mandated federal and state benefit programs — such as SNAP (a food stamp program), Medicaid programs (healthcare), Energy Assistance, Foster Care/Adoption, Adult Protective Services and a host of others – Rodgers asked, “Can you imagine what issues this county would have” if the department did not provide those services.
Although Rodgers said she continues to hear complaints that Medicaid expansion is costing the county money, “Medicaid is 100 percent funded by the state and federal government. As for the two new workers hired to help absorb the caseload increases, their salaries are 100 percent funded by the state for two years. No cost to the county. Free money,” she added.
Other services also bring federal and state funds into the locality, she said.
During the second quarter of this year (and the most recent figures available), Rodgers said funding for staff and operations included $222,062 federal funds; $90,381 in state funds and $57,311 in local funds.
“What this means is the total expenses to run the department for the second quarter was $369,754, but it only cost the county $57,311,” Rodgers said.
Of the total benefits spent for clients, 56 percent are federal funds, 43 percent are state funds and only 1 percent are local funds, she said.
Rodgers also noted that the Social Services Department is not required to administer the state mandated Children Services Act (CSA), a child centered, community-based program that provides services to youngsters in need.
Although the local Social Services Department has served as the fiscal agent for the program since 2004, because the county “did not know how to administer the program,” Rodgers said the program is the county’s responsibility.
But not everyone makes that distinction and the expenses to operate it often are attributed to the social services department, she said.
Effective July 1, the department will no longer serve as fiscal agent for the CSA program, Rodgers said.
“These are the issues that kept coming up over and over again and I felt it was time to address them,” Rodgers said.