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Social Services to Fill Staffing Gaps


Fri, Aug 9th, 2013
Posted in All Government

By Karen Reisner

Social Services Manager Gail Bunge at the county board’s August 6 meeting detailed the circumstances necessitating additional staff. Commissioner Tom Kaase was not present, but participated via phone.

Bunge maintained that she has a dedicated, hard working staff, noting that surveys among the staff highlight the need for more help. Social Services Supervisor Wendy Ebner said their greatest obligation is to the most vulnerable and that they work to provide services in a cost effective manner. The Social Services Department needs adequate staff to provide the services and complete the volume of paperwork it is mandated to provide.

A request was made for a Case Aide position. This would be an added position which will focus on collecting reimbursements for services provided to individuals. Capturing revenue when possible will likely make this position pay for itself as it has in other counties. This employee will also help the Social Worker staff with administration services freeing them up to do their primary work with the family.

The new full time supportive position was approved with an expected cost of $45,864 including benefits.

Four years ago a social worker that telecommutes was reduced from full time to half time. This employee has been very productive as a telecommuter, but the amount of work has increased to the extent that a request was made to restore the position to full time with the additional cost of $37,206 including benefits. Ebner expects the volume of work for this employee to continue to increase. The primary focus of this employee is permanency planning for all children who are in out of home placements. Chairman Randy Dahl noted that they have been operating ‘very lean’ for a long time. The position was increased to full time, effective next pay period.

A new social worker will be hired at a cost of $45,864 to replace an experienced social worker who will work full time to implement the MnChoices initiative. The salary of the experienced social worker is supposed to be 100 percent reimbursed according to the Department of Human Services. The new hire was approved with the expectation that there will be about a $21,000 reduction in costs for the county, the difference in compensation of the experienced social worker and the less experienced social worker that will likely be hired.

Budgeting for 2014

Department heads started the laborious process of appearing before the commissioners with their budgets for 2014. Commissioners review the budgets, working to trim a little here and there. The preliminary levy at this point shows an increase of 13.91 percent. A 1.1 percent decrease in County Program aid is expected. Preliminary budgets reflect a 10 percent increase in health insurance premiums. The actual increase will be known later in this month.

Preliminary budgets now include sales tax. With the 2014 sales tax exemption status there will be reductions in some of the budgets being presented. The 2013 Minnesota Legislature enacted a sales tax exemption for local governments. Local governments will not pay sales tax on most purchases and services, effective January 1, 2014.

Departmental budgets were presented for Facilities Maintenance, Sanitation, Zoning, Feedlot, Assessor, and Auditor/Treasurer.

Other Business In Brief

•Approval was given to purchase necessary equipment for the activation of the new record management system (from Law Enforcement Technology Group) and e-charging. The equipment to be paid for with 911 funds will allow for the set up of a secure virtual private network.

•Advertisement for bids was approved for two bridges including the CSAH 23 bridge and the Hogback bridge on Grosbeak Road. County Engineer Ron Gregg said the two bridges that were washed out by the June flooding will be replaced using normal procedures. He anticipates FEMA reimbursements and would like to see those roads open by October 1.

•The purchase of a used 2001 Caterpillar 320CL Hydraulic Excavator for $85,000 plus tax was approved. Brent Kohn noted it has a hydraulic thumb attachment which can be used to clean out culverts, saving a lot of crew time. This attachment new would cost about $15,000. The low quote for the excavator purchase was approved.

•The 2014-2015 Maintenance and Operations agreement with the state for the airport was approved. The biennial grant helps pay for airport maintenance including snow plowing and mowing which are 66 percent reimbursable.

•An access permit for Steve Merkel for a field access off CR 12 in Section 7, Forestville Township was approved. Merkel purchased the tillable land which does not have a separate access apart from the building site which he does not own.

•Assessor Cynthia Blagsvedt reviewed 2013 changes in property tax laws. With the presentation of the department’s 2014 budget it was noted that the assessors were needing to use their own vehicles because a county “pool” vehicle was often not available. The board by consensus expects to look at purchasing a vehicle for the department at a later meeting.

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