MARION — Williamson County board members are eyeing changes in the general assistance program to compliment a proposed reduction of county funding for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins Dec. 1.

During a budget work session Wednesday, commissioners reviewed new eligibility guidelines with a budget line item reduction from $120,000 to $60,000.

“General assistance has been around a long time. When I came here in 2004, it was $175,000 annually. We had 20 to 40 people on average. This year, it jumped to 77 people. It’s become an open line item. The state gives us nothing,” said county Board Chairman Brent Gentry as discussion began.

Board members began reviewing case files in October to determine if new eligibility criteria to determine who could rightfully qualify for financial assistance to meet living and medical costs and for how long.

A new guideline sheet distributed by Commissioner Ron Ellis requires validation of residency in Williamson County, income statements and other documentation to show a need for assistance. There is also mandatory drug testing.

The board also consensually agreed to an assistance period of six months and proof that recipients are pursuing means to support themselves such as looking for work.

There were several points of discussion on how to implement the proposed $150 to $200 monthly stipend to cover living, medical and limited medical prescription costs.

Commissioner Ron Ellis said he favors a voucher system to pay for utility and limited prescription-drug expenses.

With the new eligibility guidelines, the list of 77 people currently getting assistance would be reduced to about 35.

The county’s general assistance director, Cathy Motsinger, said with changes beginning Dec. 1, there is a likelihood 40 to 50 people currently on the county program could go homeless.

“We know we have to make a change. We’re running out of time. We know we’re not going to please everyone,” Gentry said about the proposed that would be incorporated into a tentative budget expected to be voted on Friday.

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(5) comments

WatchfulEyeTWOpointO
WatchfulEyeTWOpointO

@ George -

Oh (please) don't misunderstand the post... I am NOT in defense of cutting the program. Fact is, many of the programs and aid such as this SHOULD be cut all together (period-paragrph).

But, if the financial shape points directly at the elected Commissioner(s), as Tracey Glenn recently realized - let them eat cake.

The post was intended only to point out that regardless of the dire straits and circumstances of the County's financial mess - regardless of which or what line item - or, blaming the state for slow or no pay - the three wise commissioner's by no means helped the situation along. Nor did this project ever receive the approval of the tax payers in Williamson County.

And, to suggest that the PBC is funding the Admin Building as has been published: - "The commissioner (Brent Gentry) also was quoted, stating that: "There will be no tax increase to the general public;" is a crock…

Who funds the PBC? Who approves THEIR annual budget? Ask any of the Commissioners - of course, Tracey may not be available for comment.

george of the jungle
george of the jungle

@watchful

I do not remember (having been a voting citizen of Williamson Co. for 31 yrs) ever voting to allow the Williamson Co board to begin a welfare program so I assume they did it by "political fiat" or under some long ago board. There is a line item on the tax bill for "social services", I'm not sure if that is it. Regardless of it's inception it should be stopped immediately.

As for the PBC, it is a line item on your tax bill, which on mine in 2008 was 2.06% of my taxes and in 2011 it jumped to 2.82% which is a 37% increase in 4 years. I do know that the PBC sits a board that I assume is nominated by the county commissioners. I do not know if they are paid, if they are allowed to build a surplus of funds (from property taxes not spent on yearly maintenance of facilities), if they have the authority to raise their bond rate like a school district does, if they are allowed to borrow money for projects etc... I do know it was started prior to and because of the construction of the existing courthouse. I believe it was bi-partisan in the beginning.

WatchfulEyeTWOpointO
WatchfulEyeTWOpointO

The SI's Editorial Board wasted no time pushing this story to the back burner.

WatchfulEyeTWOpointO
WatchfulEyeTWOpointO

So, the County Board, strapped for cash under the leadership of three elected County Commissioners (one, Tracey Glenn, voted out of office during Tuesday's, election), are having a rough go of it - trying to save pennies from any and all budget line items - yet the trio had no trouble spending millions of dollars on a new administration building.

Of course - the decision to reduce funding for the General Assistance Program, which was aimed for care related to the needy or for the growing population in Williamson County, of those who have been out of work, can't find work and have exhausted all other means of compensation (some 77 people identified in the story), was reached in the multi-million dollar, posh, County Administration Center (a $6 million-plus structure which was built, maintained and furnished without public acquiescence).

After a quick search visiting the SI's archives, several stories were published prior to breaking ground on the project, in which questions were raised. And, the project expanded from an initial $4.5 million dollar, 30,000 square foot facility; to a 41,000 square foot building with a price tag in excess of $6 million dollars.

Commissioner, Ron Ellis (in an SI story) - "Board Candidate: Jail More important than admin center" (Sept. 4, 2008): "Ellis said he and other county residents would like to know where the Public Building Commission is getting its funding to pay for a new administrative center." That story indicates that there were $2 million dollars in a fund from the Public Building Commission, which was earmarked for the project.

In an effort to clear up issues related to the questions raised by Ellis, the same story reports that Commissioner Brent Gentry said: "(Board Chair Brent Gentry) he understands Ellis's concern about building a jail first, however, it is a complicated process."

From the SI's archives, two additional stories were published, "Progress continues on new administrative center" (July 7, 2008); where it was reported that; "The center is tentatively designed for three stories at 13,500 square feet. It will be built north of the courthouse and will house the county clerk, treasurer, assessor, economic development director, coroner, probation officer and board of commissioners. All judicial offices, including the state's attorney, circuit clerk and public defenders' offices, will remain inside the courthouse." and that the total cost is projected to exceed $4 million dollars.

Gentry was also quoted from the July 7th story: "Gentry re-emphasized that only local labor would be used to build the center, as would be the case when construction gets under way on a new jail."

The commissioner also was quoted, stating that: "There will be no tax increase to the general public."

However, within 30 days, the SI reported: "Williamson County to build larger complex" (August 6, 2008). In this story, Public Building Commission (PBC) spokesman, John Goss said: "…that the project has been expanded from a $4.5 million 30,000-square-foot facility to a $6 million-plus facility that will measure 41,000 square feet over three levels."

In the August 6th story, Commissioner gentry revealed that: "…much of the top floor will remain unfinished, allowing for future expansion."

While in the closing sentence of the $6 million-plus plans, the SI reported that the PBC will fund the project in full."

One paramount question which remains unanswered - if, as Commissioner Gentry projected in July 2008, quote that: "There will be no tax increase to the general public;" And, within 30 days it is revealed that the, "PBC will fund the project in full," - who funds the Public Building Commission?

No information was revealed in the archives which indic ate the additional costs related to furnishing, staffing or interior costs - nor was there any information suggestion how the exterior and parking or landscaping would be completed or maintained.

As long as you are comfortable, Mr. Gentry - in your six million dollar (plus), posh, new surroundings - which was constructed without approval or knowledge from the public - who cares about the programs which need to be whittled out of the budget?

Visit http://www.zoominfo.com/people/Goss_John_1183690202.aspx to read more about the Public Building Commission and the Administration Center.

george of the jungle
george of the jungle

@watchful

A little quick math shows that the little money give a way that you seem to defend has cost more than $1.6 million since 2004. That is based on a $7000/yr reduction of give a way money each year and only 2 county employees dedicated to run the program. I would wager that the amount of money given a way was larger and the number of county employees involved were more than 2.

Our county has no business taking property tax money and giving it to a general assistance program, especially one ran the way this one has been run.

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