State budget cuts being proposed by North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue for the coming year have Macon County Department of Social Services concerned about its own budgets. Statewide, DSS directors are scrambling to come up with budgets that will anticipate these cuts, yet still be able to fund the public services they are mandated to provide. Macon County is no different.
The Macon County Department of Social Services met Monday, Feb. 14, to discuss upcoming budget concerns involving possible cuts to its revenue due to budget cuts from the state legislature. The Macon County DSS board has three members and is comprised of Chair Wendy Dalton, businessman Jim Garner and past county commissioner Mark West. DSS Director Jane Kimsey is a non-voting member and secretary to the board.
Chairperson Wendy Dalton opened the meeting with an explanation of how DSS works. “We are a county administered, state supervised agency. Only 11 states in the country operate this way. The state mandates programs and services. We are partially funded with flow through funding from the federal government into state funding. The remaining funding is the county’s responsibility to come up with the difference. Commissioners set salaries, benefits, staffing. It is a dual type of government operation.”
Kimsey reviewed the budget process, explaining the concept of “fiscal year.”
“What makes our budgeting difficult is that our agency runs on a county fiscal year July 1 through June 30,” said Kimsey. “But our state fiscal year runs from June 1 through May 31. What we spend in June is claimed in July and reimbursed in August. We run two types of budgets. We have to spend out everything we get from the state as of May 31. Our revenues are running two months behind because it is by reimbursement only. The numbers don’t always equal out.
“At this point we don’t know what to expect. We are still waiting,” Kimsey added.
She said that the state funded allocations are the ones in the most jeopardy. Programs could be cut but it is unclear how much and when they would occur, a situation that makes it difficult to manage current operations especially with vacancies and staff turnovers.
Since the state usually doesn’t adopt their budget until after July 1, the question was asked how operations could continue without knowing what funding would be available.
“Their schedule is to adopt it by June 1. The state legislature is on a faster track this year. If it doesn’t get passed in time they will do a continuing budget resolution to continue operations so it doesn’t get shut down and services will continue to be offered. It’s critical for us with the county passing their budget and not knowing what the state is funding. It can put us at a deficit,” Kimsey said.
State estimates were due last week. The board will meet with the county finance director and county manager on Friday, Feb. 25. The budget will be reviewed by the DSS board for any changes or recommendations. Then the budget will be submitted by March 18. Kimsey said it will be a best estimate budget because they don’t know exactly what the state funding will be.
“It’s critical for us ... not knowing what the state is funding. It can put us at a deficit.” — Jane Kimsey, Director of Department of Social Services
Addressing the department’s concerns, Kimsey added, “While we are analyzing current operations we are also analyzing current work loads. In trying to adhere to state standards there is the concern that with state allocations possibly being cut, it would be up to the commissioners to make up the difference. If we get cuts and the workload justifies keeping the same level of staffing, we will forward that in the county budget request.”
The Macon County Department of Social Services administration and program budget report for July through January 2011 shows the department’s total expenditures of $2,185,517. The available budget for the remainder of the fiscal year totals $2,673,112 showing that 48 percent of the budget has been used. Overall, expenditures are averaging 10 percent lower than was budgeted, says Kimsey. Federal and state reimbursement revenues through November 2010 total $1,462,253 which average two percent below budget.
The county’s DSS administration expense budget includes operating expenses such as staff salaries, Medicare, insurance, office operations and supplies, travel, vehicle and building maintenance, etc.
Programs administered by the DSS are many and include Adult Protective Services, Adult Home Care, Family Planning, Child Protection Services, Foster Care, Food and Nutrition Services, Health Choice, Low Income Energy Assistance Program, Medicaid, Family Violence Prevention, and more. Funding for the nearly 30 programs the DSS manages comes from a complex mix of federal, state and county sources totaling more than $14 million a year.
In other business, The Food and Nutrition Services report stated that as of December 2010 there were 2,878 cases with 5,966 participants for a total of $770,352 in benefits. The Medicaid Eligibility report showed the number of eligible recipients was at 5,602 and 607 for the Health Choice program.
The Board of Social Services is established by NC General Statute 108A-1 and operates under a three-member board appointed to threeyear terms. One Board member is State appointed, one member is appointed by the Board of Commissioners, and one member is appointed by the DSS Board.
The DSS’s mission is “Partnering to promote, protect and strengthen our community.” They are committed to serving through compassion, learning, integrity, excellence, new innovations and teamwork.
The Macon County Department of Social Services is located on Lakeside Drive in the Health and Human Services Building. Meetings are held the third Wednesday of every month at 9 a.m. in the DSS Administrative Conference Room. Go to the DSS website at www.maconnc.org/dss.html to learn more about the agency.