Before beginning his comments, Rouse acknowledged the difficulties that the county's financial woes had placed on department heads throughout county government and the obligation of his department to do its part to help balance the budget.
However, as he explained each of his suggestions, it became abundantly clear that his suggestions illustrate a classic catch-22 that Bladen and other counties are faced with in this day of fiscal constraints.
The irony of Rouse's suggested needs is that none would have ultimately cost additional county dollars, and in some cases would have actually brought additional dollars into county coffers.
The legal requirement is that at least a portion of the up-front cost of funding the positions he alluded to would have to be part of the county budget, and herein lies the problem.
Bladen's Commissioners, like those in most counties across the state, are scrambling to find ways to balance their budget without reducing services or raising taxes. To do so, they have had to reduce manpower across the board.
In the case of DSS, access to federal funds in many programs is tied to manpower positions. In many cases the county ultimately receives more in federal dollars than is required to fund the position.
However, because of stipulations in the federal law authorizing the funds, the county must pay a portion of the cost of funding the position and that must be reflected in the budget.
In other words, the county could gain $120,000 in federal funding by having two positions. However, the county must reflect one half of the cost of funding the positions in its budget-say $50,000-or it loses the entire $120,000.
This is a case of the county proverbially shooting itself in the foot by not funding the two positions.
And perhaps more importantly, as Rouse pointed out, residents of the county lose access to a valuable program that could ultimately reduce welfare rolls in the future.
Prior to the manpower reductions in county government, DSS had enough positions to account for those required in the suggestions Rouse made. However, his department did its part and gave up positions to help balance the county budget.
Another irony is that the economic woes that have exacerbated the fiscal difficulties facing counties-particularly poor counties-have also increased the demand for DSS services almost across the board.
Sadly, the county and its residents-particularly its poor residents-suffer from this lose-lose situation.
We understand fully the difficulty faced by our elected officials. However, it might behoove our commissioners to take a closer look at the overall consequences of manpower reductions before making decisions that in the long run hurt the county.