Thursday, April 28, 2011
County board of supervisors updated on Community Services
By SUE WATSON
Steve Gaines, director of Northeast Mississippi Community Services, met with the board of supervisors recently to provide an update on services, budgets and new regulations that affect the way the agency operates.
The county provides some funds to the agency.
Utility assistance funds this calendar year were $393,000 and a block grant that provides rental assistance and medical funds is at $25,000, he said.
“This is a very important year we are in right now,” Gaines said. “The bad news – things President Obama mentioned, federal employee salaries, national defense and the community action program were in his three possible (budget) cuts.”
Gaines said Community Services is getting more done with less money with a new computer system the state acquired January 1. It changed how local agencies deal with clients. Providing a birth certificate has been the number one problem of some clients, he said. Every client in a household has to show a birth certificate. Gaines said his agency is looking for dollars to help clients pay the fee for birth certificate copies. Before, only a Social Security number and driver’s license were required, he said.
The computer system in Jackson will not accept any application without the birth certificate, he said. That means getting help to those who need assistance may be slowed down by lack of a birth certificate. But the additional requirement to show proof of birth has helped states find and stop fraudulent claims, he said, including claims in the names of deceased persons.
Chancery Clerk Chuck Thomas asked if there will be a summer youth work program this year – he gets lots of calls about it. Gaines said there will be for dropouts.
Gaines concluded that the new computer system at the Department of Human Services is improving accountability in how public dollars are spent.
In other business, the board:
• approved paying the public seal fee of $125 for a notary public at DHS. Thomas said the state is no longer paying the fee but the notary helps the county process many important documents that benefit the county. The employee made the request because the state cut the notary seal fee from its budget. A motion by supervisor George Zinn, seconded by Ronnie Joe Bennett, passed 4-1 with Keith Taylor voting in opposition. Taylor said he voted no because the employee is not a county employee, but a state worker. The state should pay the fee as it had been doing, he said.
• heard more cautionary notes from Thomas who said county revenues at the end of February this year were $2.6 million as opposed to $2.9 million a year ago. The county has $357,000 less in incoming revenues and cash flow may become critical in November this year instead of December as it was last year, he said.
“I feel like it’s my job to warn us,” Thomas said. “All purchase orders will not be issued if no funds are left in that line item (in the budget). We’ve got to know where it’s coming from and how much money is in the account.”
Having to go back and pay December’s bill has caused a potential cash flow problem now, Thomas said.
“All tax sale dollars are budgeted,” he said.
That means the county will get its projected tax revenue to cover budgeted items but could find itself unable to meet a short-term debt due to cash flow problems. Beginning cash (on hand October 1 each new budget year) has been low for the last two budget years, he said.
• in his report on road and bridge matters, county administrator Larry Hall praised several employees who have learned how to patch a pot hole with coldmix that won’t immediately crumble out. The county is trying to do maintenance that will hold up on damaged roads from winter ice and snow.
• supervisor Eddie Dixon praised the Hudsonville community for community cleanup March 19 and challenged other communities to do a roadside cleanup when the roll-off dumpsters are out. The county will supply the trash bags and come and pick up filled bags to any community willing to organize a cleanup day. Call the county administrator’s office (252-7903) to request bags and assistance from a supervisor.
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