DSS to look at contract costs

Jan. 28, 2013 @ 02:30 PM

Facing budget pressures, department of Social Services officials decided Wednesday to review their contracts to see if they can cut expenses.
All county agencies have been asked by county budget administrators to offer budget cuts of 15 percent, or $1.2 million for DSS. The agency, which has cut $1 million a year for the last three years, could lose 80 positions if the budget is slashed by 15 percent, according to early estimates. 
“If we look at the contracts, we may be able to help you with the cuts,” DSS Board Chairwoman Jewell Cooper said during a board meeting. “This board has to look for cuts too and we can do that by looking at contracts.”
DSS agencies contract  with community groups and child care and foster care organizations for services and shelter beds, for example.
The county is facing a $41 million shortfall created by the county’s $1 billion debt, including $457 million for school construction. The county debt payment could grow to $106 million in 2014, or 16 percent of the budget. Debt payments won’t drop below 15 percent of the county budget until 2018 unless revenues start to improve greatly. 
“Commissioners do not want to raise taxes,” said DSS Director Robert Williams. “So it is all on the table and things have to be prioritized. There are things we don’t want to cut. This is not easy and it could be painful.”
The agency has cut budgets as case loads have increased during the Great Recession. Since 2008, the number of households receiving food and nutrition services, or food stamps, has increased from 22,000 to 45,000, for example.
“We have a larger case load in some areas than Wake County because we have a weaker economy,” Williams said.
The greatest worry, Williams said, is that budget cuts could mean penalty payments to the state if programs do not meet standards because of staff shortages.
“There are so many things we can not control,” Williams said. “If we do not do things right, there can be a penalty.”

Budget

Cuts:  County administrators have asked agencies to cut 2014 budgets by as much as 15 percent.