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Cass County Board: Child placement costs increasing

WALKER - Cass County Health, Human and Veterans Services Director Reno Wells informed the county board Aug. 4 he expects child out-of-home placement costs to run $2,157,304 this year or $750,000 more than the county budget anticipated.

Administrator Robert Yochum said the county share of that excess amount likely will be $600,000. Chief Financial Officer Larry Wolfe confirmed that would be the same as a 3 percent property tax levy increase.

Wells said he plans to cover the excess cost this year by spending down HHVS reserve fund.

Wells hired an additional child protection case aide July 20 and has begun training the new employee. The board authorized that new position in July.

He said he is interviewing candidates for the additional child protection social worker position the board also authorized in July. While there is a list of 13 eligible applicants, Wells said some on the list already have taken other jobs.

The county expects to receive $135,000 this year and again in 2016 from the state to cover the additional employee costs. While the partial year hiring of new employees will not use all the state funding for salaries this year, Wells said he expects to spend much of the balance for supplies and equipment for the new staff.

The full amount will be needed for salaries alone in 2016, he said.

Through the first half of 2015, Cass County spent 48.44 percent of the health, human and veterans services budget.

The out of home child placement costs ran at 75 percent of that budget after half the year or $1,156,745. The county's share of those costs ran 81 percent of the amount the 2015 budget projected.

Tuesday, the board authorized Wells to have the county's human services participate in a Region 5 service where a central manager will oversee contracting services for adult mental health services in all five counties in the region.

Cass County's share of that manager's estimated $85,000 salary would be 17.5 percent of the total. The local share is based on the county's population.

Cass County Veterans Service Officer Jeff Woodford has sent a letter to the Duluth veterans center to support locating a regional veterans center at Bemidji. In his letter, Woodford notes currently the closest centers offering a range of counseling, outreach and referral services to veterans and their families are at Duluth and Fargo.