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Child Support switch proves costly

WINTON – Hertford and Bertie counties look likely to be on the hook for $200,000 during fiscal year 2010-11.

During Monday morning’s meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, County Manager Loria D. Williams said it seemed likely the state would dissolve the multi-county child support offices in the state, including the office in Ahoskie which serves Bertie and Hertford counties.

“It appears that responsibility will be shifted back to the counties,” Williams said. “The majority of North Carolina counties are already absorbing these costs, but Bertie and Hertford are two of those who aren’t.”

Williams said she had spoken with Rep. Annie W. Mobley (D-5th) expressing her desire for the cost not to be shifted to the counties. She also said she would be speaking with State Senator Ed Jones (D-4th) about the issue.

“We don’t want the responsibility but I believe it’s almost a done deal,” Williams said. “Most counties are doing it already.”

The Hertford County Manager said currently 12 people are employed at the regional child support office and the office runs on a budget of approximately $800,000 per year.

A total of $600,000 of that funding comes from the state and federal government, Williams noted, but the other $200,000 would be shifted to the two counties.

“(Bertie County Manager) Zee Lamb and I will have to let the state know how we anticipate handling the transition by January 1, if it passes,” Williams said. “The transfer would actually become effective on July 1, 2010.”

The counties could simply pay the state the additional funds and allow the operation to continue as it is, but Williams said that option was not likely. It is more likely the employees will shift to the Department of Social Services.

“The employees will likely fall under the State Personnel Act,” Williams said. “They will be DSS employees and answer to (Hertford County DSS Director) Gwen (Burns) and the social services board rather than general county employees who answer to me and this board.”

Commissioner Johnnie R. Farmer asked if most counties who handled child support had the workers under DSS and Williams said all of them are.

While she said the county would wait for final legislation, it appeared the child support will be shifted and the counties will take over responsibility for the employees.