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Just When You Least Expect It
Consent agenda items rarely make waves during board of supervisors meetings, but one in Stafford struck a political and philosophical nerve today.
The item considered approving the recruitment of two positions in the county’s Social Services department. Social services Director Michael Muse made the case for filling the positions, saying that his department has seen a case load increase of 65% in the past three years, including an 85% increase in the use of the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). The two positions would cost the county $32,070 in salary and benefits as 65% is covered by the state and federal government.
Supervisor Paul Milde said it was the most convincing case for filling a position he had ever seen.
Spending to hire those two positions was ultimately approved with a 5-2 vote (supervisors Cord Sterling and Susan Stimpson voted against). But not until Sterling had a chance to raise his voice against hiring of any kind.
Sterling pointed out that the county faces a $3.9 million budget challenge in the next fiscal year, and refused to approve new hires until a plan is in place to deal with the shortfall.
“We do not have the money. we cannot do this,” he said.
A lengthy argument ensued, pitting hard-line budget hawks against those who saw the hires as a matter of need. Sterling equated the hires to a tax increase and accused Republican Supervisor Gary Snellings of “trying to pretend that he’s conservative.”
Of the 817 funded positions in this year’s budget, 788 are currently filled. Another 19, including the two social services positions, are in the process of getting filled.
Supervisor Harry Crisp made an impassioned plea to fill the two social services positions, relating a story of an acquaintance who struggled to get assistance last Christmas.
“We are going to find a way to save that $3.9 million,” he said.
“Present it,” Sterling replied.