More need, more work for JFS

Larger caseloads mean more work for Auglaize County Job and Family Services (JFS) employees going into 2013.

“No one is handing out money and telling us to do good things,” county JFS Director Mike Morrow said of funding to support these increases in work across the board.

“They are telling us to do more good things with less,” he said of state and federal funding for the department.

Describing 2012 as a challenging year, Morrow said they are not allowing excuses and his staff is working harder to get support in the hands of the people that need it.

“I don’t anticipate doing anything different than what we have been doing all along,” Morrow said of 2013.

That means no big purchases and no major contracts for the department in the new year.

“I am really nervous about proposing anything major with the changes coming down the road,” Morrow said.

He said they took a close look at staffing, considering who they may lose to retirement and have to payout benefits to, and reviewed mileage on vehicles, as well as wear and tear and repair costs as they set a budget for the new year. As the office continues moving to a more paperless system, less also is expected to be spent on equipment, such as copiers.

Factoring in salary increases not yet approved by the Auglaize County commissioners, Morrow presented a proposed budget of more than $3.1 million on Thursday. The budget reflects a 4 percent increase from 2012.

“I put 3 (percent pay increases) in every year,” Morrow said of his budget. “That is what we have always done, then we change it to whatever you approve.”

Employee salaries with 3 percent increases would represent more than $1.3 million of JFS’s total budget.

In addition to benefits, other line items in the budget include $85,000 for supplies, $100,000 for equipment, $200,000 for contract services, $22,000 for travel, $106,155 for other expenses, $100,000 for facilities, and $284,673 for general relief.

“These numbers look great but they aren’t worth they paper they are written on,” Morrow said. “There are too many variables, but we need to be somewhat prepared.

“We will need to anticipate retroactive changes that could go back to July,” he said of federal funding the department receives.”I am extremely nervous.”

JFS’s budget has remained steady for several years, Morrow said, noting that he feels comfortable that despite changes in funding sources they will be able to operate within the numbers he proposed.

Steady budget numbers and increasing case loads may mean more work for his employees.

Morrow said 1,350 more county residents are expected to be eligible for Medicaid. With caseworkers having between 470 and 525 cases each, the additional numbers add up to the equivalent of three more positions.

“That will never happen,” Morrow said. “The money doesn’t exist, yet it will have an impact on their caseloads.”

The increases also are expected to impact food assistance.

“Many more people are now eligible than we have ever had before and they just keep coming,” Morrow said. “We continue to do the best we can with that.”

While there isn’t money in the department’s budget to add all three new positions needed, Morrow said they did build enough money in to cover one of those positions because he didn’t want to be caught totally unprepared.

“We would need to add at least one more position,” Morrow said.

Child welfare cases also have increased 100 percent in the last year and staff members are working hard to keep costs low and children out of out-of-home placement, which means less money spent on keeping children in custody.

In the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA), Morrow said there is a full-fledged press to get collections and subsequent federal incentives up.

With a budget of $988,286, of which salaries account for half, projected for the CSEA in 2013, Morrow said his staff is working hard, but again is being faced with record numbers of child support modifications, which is time consuming. Enforcement has gotten aggressive as fiscally clients continue to struggle.

Federal support for the program could increase or decrease going into the future, Morrow said.

“Sometimes what goes unnoticed after all three major reviews is no problems were found and we are under no corrective action plans,” Morrow said of his agency. “That is a real testament to the job the employees are doing.”