Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw supports an administration plan to create a new Child Protective Services team when the 2013-14 budget is adopted this fall – but differs on how to pay for it.
He proposes saving about $425,000 by filling fully-funded vacant positions and bypassing County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz’s proposal to create seven new jobs – three of which he labels “political patronage positions.”
“We can accomplish our shared mission of strengthening services that benefit children,” Mychajliw said. “The solution is to use vacant positions at no cost to taxpayers.”
The comptroller reacted to an earlier Poloncarz proposal to beef up the county government unit that investigates allegations of child abuse and other concerns. But Mychajliw said while he agrees with the goal, the Poloncarz proposal should be viewed only as a “first step.”
He said because the Department of Social Services has 125 vacant positions in the budget, the administration should simply set new titles for the seven new jobs. “The county doesn’t have to add jobs to the budget,” he said. “All we need to do is use fully-funded vacant positions, and we provide improved services at no additional cost.”
Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson responded that Mychajliw never sought the “constructive discussion” he said is guiding the process, instead going first to the media “as is his habit.” He said his numbers are wrong and represent a “complete misunderstanding” of the department’s structure.
“His misunderstanding of the structure of DSS extends to his cavalier ‘solution’ about shifting vacant positions to fill the new CPS spots. Positions can’t be simply shifted around without harming the department,” Anderson said.
Anderson also said adequate funds exist to pay for the positions from other accounts and that more than half will be covered by state and federal funds. “The comptroller is wrong in lots of ways with this latest political ploy and, rather than trying to score political points, should be working with the administration to better protect children and families in Erie County,” he said.
But Mychajliw compared the Erie County situation with Westchester and Suffolk counties with similar size and needs. He said Social Services employs four people in management in Suffolk County, while Westchester employs five. The Poloncarz plan, he said, would increase Erie County’s managerial staff to seven, higher than similar counties.
Anderson disputed Mychajliw’s interpretation of the downstate counties’ management levels, saying Suffolk and Westchester have more management employees, less need, fewer caseloads and larger budgets.