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Eastern Regional Representative
HQ Phone:  (919) 782-4111
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Raleigh, North Carolina,27609
The North Carolina Association of County Directors of Social Services (NCACDSS) is a non-profit association representing the social service directors across North Carolina's counties. The association's mission is to inform, educate, and empower its members in ... more.
NCACDSS | North Carolina Association of County Directors of Social Services | 919.782.4111
Melissa Stokely, Pasquotank County
Pasquotank DSS Director Melissa Stokely said the $500,000 in LIEP funds will probably run out quickly.
Stokely said LIEP funding will probably not offer much relief during this week's cold snap. In many cases, the homeless hang out at Walmart, end up at the emergency room or will even get themselves arrested on some small infractions to escape the cold, she noted. Of the homeless, Stokely said, "I think there are more than people realize."
Fourteen employees have left the department during the first seven months of this year, Pasquotank DSS Director Melissa Stokely said Monday.
Three of the departures were retirements and one was related to a military transfer. But Stokely said at least half the turnover is because of frozen salaries or high caseloads - or a combination of both. "Some of it is attributed to the high caseloads, and the more turnover we have the more turnover it generates," she said. The salary freeze the county commissioners put in place in 2009 is a factor in the turnover, according to Stokely. "I know it's a factor," Stokely said. "Absolutely it's a factor." The county commissioners froze employee pay in 2009 in the face of a budget shortfall stemming from plummeting sales tax and land transfer tax proceeds. Stokely said the department has lost good workers because they were making less than they could earn in surrounding counties. Stokely said the food and nutrition area of DSS has only survived because highly experienced employees have "kept it afloat" despite the growing caseload. "We're very fortunate that they're experienced and they're able to keep pace and keep up with what's going on," she said. Although foster care and child protective services have had declining caseloads recently, eventually those areas will pick back up, she said. She said she understands the county's budget constraints and she tries to be fiscally conservative. She noted staff members wore coats in the office last winter because she cut the heat back. She also noted that six positions are being held open - no recruiting is being done to fill them. Frozen salaries are making it hard to keep experienced employees in many cases, Stokely said. "I know freezing salaries saves money," she said. But she added that turnover also costs money. The department has recruiting costs, and then it takes at least nine months to train someone to be an income maintenance worker, she said. A social worker position takes just as long for training, and also requires weeks of mandatory out-of-town training, she added. "It's a revolving door right now," Stokely said. She said she had the numbers to support five new positions in the 2010-11 budget but only got two. The current budget does include money to upgrade the department's computer network. The computer upgrade will help - fewer people will be able to get more done - but the department still needs to stop employees from wanting to go elsewhere, Stokely said. She said she knows Pasquotank is not the only DSS facing these kinds of challenges. Still, Pasquotank DSS recently had a worker apply for a comparable position with another county that would pay $5,000 more, Stokely said. She said the worker in this instance was the kind of worker she would like to keep, but she knew it was impossible to compete with a $5,000 raise even when the out-of-county commute was considered.
County Manager Randy Keaton reported to the Finance Committee that DSS Director Melissa Stokely wanted to fill the position as soon as possible since the staff is extremely shorthanded right now with two employees out on extended sick leave.
Early Childhood Focus
"We were either going to have to cut services this year to a few people or by next fiscal year be cutting everyone off," said Melissa Corprew Stokely, social services director. However, Stokely said that wasn't the end of the department's money problems for the child care voucher program. "Next year's allocation is expected to be less than last year's," she said. The last estimate she heard was $1.82 million, compared with this year's allocation of $1.87 million. "We're still going to have to make changes," she said.
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