Rhonda Allery, who heads social services for Ramsey County, gave an impassioned plea for increased funding for the workers in her department at Tuesday’s meeting of the Ramsey County Commission.
Allery’s budget had been reduced from its original amount by a significant number that would mean they could not hire another worker they badly needed and those on staff would not receive the compensation they merited.
She explained about the case load her staff was handling and how each social worker was doing the work of nearly two people. “You have to understand the situations that our workers go into, sometimes armed with only a cell phone and a pen,” she said.
She referenced recent problems with social services on the Spirit Lake Nation as an extreme example of what could happen when agencies are understaffed and overworked with difficult cases.
“We are understaffed and I can’t continue to ask my workers to carry such heavy loads without getting them some help and adequate compensation,” she said.
She invited the commissioners to come along with one of her workers on a visit to understand the extent of the work they do with troubled families often at all hours of the day and night.
She also cited the Hay Study that evaluated employee compensation which was commissioned by the state of North Dakota and their findings that the specific requirements expected of social workers which included a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program and state licensure as well as the level of confidentiality required in duties like child protection work, warranted a certain level of compensation. Ramsey County was far below that level, in some cases as much as 17 percent below.
She also talked about program costs going continually up, foster care costs going up and the number of suspected abuse and neglect cases increasing, as well.
Commission president Bill Mertens explained that they have been pressured to keep mills as low as possible while still providing the funding needed to keep programs running.
Commissioner Ed Brown said he knew the need was high, very high, when a large percentage of students, for example, qualified for free or reduced meals at the school, you know there is a real need out there.
Following a number of questions from the commissioners they did say they would take a look at the budget and consider her appeal, however, no motions were made and no actions taken on the matter.
A meeting has been set up for Oct. 4 to meet with the state legislators Allery said. She invited the commission to participate in that meeting although it would be after their budget was finalized.
Page 2 of 2 - The county’s budget for 2013 must be finalized by the first meeting in October which will be Oct. 2 at 8 a.m.
Brenda Langerud talked about changes for the Kid’s Voting project this year and applications she’d received from classes throughout the area to participate.
She said the program was very successful in the past and that it was an encouragment for 18 year olds to vote as well as parents who hadn’t voted before.
Langerud also reported that she would be going to Kansas to attend a workshop where 4-H members from Ramsey County would be doing a presentation on “How to do a Lake Region Project Day.” She said it would be the first time 4-H members did the presentation at the conference.
Kevin Fieldsend reported on the County No. 2 grade raises and Ramsey County No. 6 project yet to be done this construction season.