11/04/13 — Literacy program back on agenda

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Literacy program back on agenda

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 4, 2013 1:46 PM

Representatives from Literacy Connections of Wayne County will once again be before Wayne County commissioners when they update the board Tuesday on the agency's funding plans.

The meeting will start with an agenda briefing at 8 a.m. followed by the official session at 9 a.m. Both will be held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

The update comes two months after commissioners declined to reinstate $27,000 cut from the agency's budget, but did provide $2,000 in stopgap funding for the free adult literacy program.

The approval came with a stipulation that the Literacy Connections board study a fee schedule for students and contact the Goldsboro City Council about helping to fund the program.

The City Council recently approved $6,000 for Literacy Connections.

The issue of fees appears unresolved.

Pat Yates, the program director, has maintained that the agency was set up under the nonprofit auspices of the Charitable Foundation of Wayne County.

As such, it cannot charge fees and must be open to everyone, she said.

There are concerns as well that implementing fees could endanger grant funding.

Mrs. Yates asked commissioners at their Sept. 3 meeting to replace $27,000 they had cut from her budget.

The agency had sought $111,205 in direct funding for its current budget, but the amount was trimmed to $90,000 by County Manager Lee Smith in his budget recommendation.

The board, by a 5-2 vote in June, further reduced the amount to $85,000.

A budget amendment for the $27,000 was drafted and recommended for approval by county Finance Officer Pam Holt, but wasn't brought up for a vote even though Chairman Steve Keen briefly mentioned it during the Sept. 3 meeting.

Commissioners did not approve the $27,000, but did agree to an additional $2,000 to help the agency get through the month to have the money to pay a part-time employee. That increased the budgeted amount to $87,000.

The county did not respond to a request for comment on whether or not commissioners would revisit the $27,000 request on Tuesday.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery has been the most vocal opponent of channeling county tax dollars into nonprofit agencies.

Yet, during commissioners' June budget sessions, Daughtery championed returning $25,000 to the Arts Council of Wayne County that had been cut from the recommended budget.

At first, he linked the $25,000 to further reducing the budget for the Wayne County Public Library. But he withdrew his motion to that effect after other commissioners said they would address the Arts Council when they reached that item in the budget.

Daughtery also has pushed for Literacy Connections to use a sliding fee scale to charge people who use its services.

He also has expressed displeasure that the agency is teaching English as a Second Language as well.

Figures cited in September by Daughtery in making his case for curtailing funding for Literacy Connections included some inaccuracies that inflated the total funded by the county by $19,720.19.

They also included both direct and indirect costs -- a distinction he did not make during his comments.

The numbers Daughtery cited included $35,917.25 in indirect costs, which reflected $29,535.28 in salary and benefits for a housekeeper.

However, county public information officer Barbara Arntsen said the salary is actually $9,845.09, since the housekeeper works at the Literacy Connections' office and two other county offices.

The breakdown for the other costs is accurate, she said.

Those include: $1,821.13 for cleaning supplies; $172.93 for T-cells/air fresheners; $47.07 for mops heads/towel rentals; $530.95 for dumpster rental; $569.10 to Piedmont Natural Gas; $287.02 for water/sewer; fire extinguisher inspections, $3.37; pagers for housekeepers, $156.65; $2,774.75 for electricity; and $19 for U.S. and state flags.

The county does not charge Literacy Connections rent. That is approximately $27,914 of indirect costs not included in the numbers Daughtery used, Ms. Arntsen said.

The in-kind donations began when the program moved into the county's East Ash Street facility it shares with the Wayne County Veterans Services Office.

Mrs. Yates is a regular county employee. However, her salary and her benefits of $37,797 are reimbursed 100 percent to the county from the Literacy Connections board through a contractual agreement.

If the Literacy Connections board stopped paying the reimbursement, Mrs. Yates would no longer be employed, Ms. Arntsen said.

In other business Tuesday:

* County Planning Director Connie Price will update the board on the county's comprehensive land use plan. It will include options for the scope of work, possible timeline and request for qualifications.

* Library Director Donna Phillips will present the library's proposed policies for consideration. The policies have been reviewed and recommended for approval by the library board of advisers. The policies include food and drink, registration/circulation, cell phone usage and disruptive behavior.

* Commissioners are expected to approve a resolution supporting Wayne Memorial Hospital's efforts to secure "a fair and balanced contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina that will not threaten the hospital's financial viability and independence.

"That such contract agreement should be reached immediately for the best interest of Wayne County citizens and business community and those individuals in surrounding areas who have Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina insurance and use Wayne Memorial Hospital."