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Virginia Politics
Posted at 07:21 PM ET, 05/22/2012

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approves tentative plan to fix budget woes at social agency

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave approval Tuesday to a tentative plan by the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board to address an $8 million funding gap that threatens to reduce social services for some of the county’s most vulnerable people.

But several supervisors seemed uncertain about what their approval actually meant, or whether it was even necessary for a social services agency that is supposed to be overseen by a board of its own. Others expressed annoyance over the agency’s lack of transparency and deteriorating financial situation.

“It’s really mush,” said Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason) told the Community Services Board’s executive director.

Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville) wanted to know why the agency still lacked a basic computer program to track finances. Supervisor Patrick S. Herrity (R-Springfield) urged the agency to become more aggressive about ensuring that families who have health care insurance or the means to pay for the CSB’s services. Supervisor Jeffrey McKay (D-Lee) wanted to know why no one at the CSB -- or its governing body — has taken decisive action sooner.

“Why are we acting on this, period?” McKay wondered.

Red ink at the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which provides services to thousands of people, has forced the publicly funded agency to freeze hiring and limit access to some programs.

With the deficit projected to grow next year to nearly $9.5 million, the Community Services Board, also known as the CSB, is considering more drastic measures, including closing treatment centers, eliminating all but the most crucial services and reducing staff.

CSB staff have said the shortfalls have been created by increased post-recessionary needs and reduced funding from the federal and state governments that mandate many of the services.

Some cuts have already roiled the disabled community. In March, the agency announced cuts to Infant & Toddler Connection, which provides services for newborns and young children who show signs of intellectual delay in development. For the first time in the agency’s history, children are being put on a waiting list, which means that although the program provides assessments of children, they face delays receiving critical therapies, officials said.

The Community Services Board is also considering reductions to Employment and Day Services, which aids young people with intellectual disabilities after their graduation from Fairfax public schools. Those cutbacks could force more than 60 families onto a waiting list. Agency officials have asked the county to find money to fund programs for 19 young people whose needs are most acute.

On Tuesday, George Braunstein, executive director of the Community Services Board, said that his agency sought guidance from the supervisors because the county has traditionally acted as its funder of last resort. Braunstein reminded the supervisors that they had also asked to review the agency’s course of action. He also said the agency already had put off a variety of drastic actions until the board and members of public had a chance to share their views about what to do.

Braunstein also suggested that the CSB wanted to make sure the supervisors would stand by the agency if it provided service for the 19 young county school graduates even if there were no money for them. Public hearings, beginning June 4, have also been scheduled to help the CSB guide its actions.

By  |  07:21 PM ET, 05/22/2012

 
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