ODJFS cuts six workers

Published 10:09 am Thursday, March 19, 2009

As Gene Myers sees it, the day of reckoning has finally come.

Tuesday six of the 10 caseworkers who are part of the children services division of the Department of Job and Family Services were given notice.

Caseworkers go out in the field to investigate the living conditions of children at risk.

Email newsletter signup

“With the funding issues, we have had to make the decision,” said Myers, ODJFS director. “Our funding has been cut substantially over the last four years.”

Myers saw this day coming when the 1-mil Children Services Levy he wanted passed in November 2008 was soundly defeated.

The levy would have generated approximately $326,000 annually but as a local match could have brought in possibly four times that to the department.

“If I could have had that local match dollars, I could have paid for foster care. That runs $1.4 million a year,” Myers said. “Whenever the levy did not pass, I knew I would have to do what I am doing right now.”

All but one of the case workers have been employed from 2005 forward; the sixth came in 2000. The average salary was $32,000.

The effective date for the layoffs is April 6.

Four of the six have displacement rights, which means they can “bump” or take the position of another employee at the agency. They are not required to inform Myers of their decision to exercise that right for five days after receiving notice of the layoffs.

The caseworkers at the department are a part of the AFSCME union. Currently Myers and AFSCME representatives are in negotiations about other ways to prevent further job cuts.

“Basically it is a look at strategies we can use about curbing the expense of employment,” Myers said.

“We are currently talking about furloughs, wage freezes and those types of issues.”

The department’s budget has taken a 46 percent hit since fiscal 2005 overall that also covers the other aspects of the agency’s responsibilities: family stability, child support and workforce.

“We have been able to weather it through attrition or offering buyouts,” Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens said. “I really sympathize with the workers.

“They work hard. It is certainly not their fault. What really concerns me are the abused and neglected children.”