• 50°

County eyes layoffs for CSEA workers

As many as seven out of 22 Child Support Enforcement Agency employees face layoffs in April, a result of dwindling state funding for the agency, officials said.

Friday, March 30, 2001

As many as seven out of 22 Child Support Enforcement Agency employees face layoffs in April, a result of dwindling state funding for the agency, officials said.

The action came Thursday when county commissioners adopted a resolution on personnel changes at the CSEA, following an executive session with Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services director Buddy Martin, who oversees the agency.

"The reason is strictly financial," Martin said. "There is not enough state and federal dollars to support the staff it has right now."

Employees have not been notified officially, but will be next week, he said.

"I do want to say to the commissioners, and to the public, that from the time I got involved with the the CSEA, the employees have realized there were some problems ," he added. "These people have worked very hard to straighten up a messy situation. It’s truly unfortunate."

Commissioners agreed, adding that state funding and the tight county budget meant there were no other options.

They’ve really worked their hearts out, so it really is unfortunate, commissioners Jason Stephens and George Patterson said.

The CSEA receives incentives from child support collections, but that only amounted to just over $100,000 last year, and state dollars have decreased, Martin said.

Several employees were hired about two years ago to switch cases over to a new state computer system. That process, and the funding associated with it is finished now, Martin said.

State budget proposals to reduce funding to several agencies also spell trouble for the future, he said.

Looking at the big picture, there is reduced funding to draw federal matching dollars and adjustments have to be made, Martin said.

By law, money cannot be transferred from the Department of Job and Family Services general fund, he added.

"The only option would be money from the county general fund, and we know there’s none to help there."

In addition, the return of two attorneys to the agency affects the CSEA’s budget but had nothing to do with the layoffs, commissioners said.

An impartial arbitrator issued a decision earlier this month that the county violated a union agreement with AFSCME 3319-C when it abolished administrators Stewart Kaiser’s and Craig Allen’s jobs at the CSEA. The county assigned work the two had been doing to non-bargaining unit employees, and the administrators must be restored to their positions without any loss of seniority or benefits, the arbitrator ruled.

The layoffs had to be done irregardless, commissioners said.

"It affects the agency (and its budget) somewhat, but the funding is still not there to support the staff," Stephens said.

Stephens added he disagreed with the arbitrator’s decision.

"There might not have been as many, but there would have been layoffs," he said.

Patterson, who previously voted against abolishing the two administrators’ positions, said that grievance and arbitration procedures were followed.

"When it happened, I said we couldn’t win because we can’t replace bargaining unit people with management," he said.