Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Council Sets More Budget Talks

A budget session Wednesday focused on social service programs that the City Council felt mainly should be left to private, non-profit providers, but the governing body also added more talks this month.

Agencies up for scrutiny Wednesday included the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program, the Bilingual Day Care Center and Plainfield Action Services.

Prema Achari, director of the WIC program since 1980, described the program's benefits, which include vouchers for nutritional foods to eligible clients and counseling on nutrition. In the year from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009, the agency had 52,335 client visits, she said.

Although most of the program's cost is federally-funded, the city must pick up costs for city employees' benefits and pensions. This cost was a sticking point not only in the WIC program, but in other programs with outside funding. Council President Rashid Burney repeated his concern Wednesday that social service programs must be evaluated for whether they needed city support or could be outsourced to other agencies.

On Wednesday, other program directors were not available due to illness or being on terminal leave for retirement. Bibi Taylor, the new director of Administration, Finance, Health and Social Services, described the Bilingual Day Care and Plainfield Action Services programs.

In each program, the city picks up the cost of fringe benefits for staff, who are city employees. The tab is $120,000 for the WIC program, $290,000 for the Bilingual Day Care program and $220,000 for Plainfield Action Services. Council members suggested shifting the programs to non-profits or to county services at the Park-Madison building.

With half the budget year elapsed, officials agreed it is unlikely that any savings could be effected in FY 2010 ending June 30, but Burney and others pushed for phase-out of city-based social programs in coming years.

At the end, council members agreed to change the governing body's schedule as follows:

Monday, Dec. 14: The 8 p.m. regular meeting will be augmented by a 7 p.m. session in Municipal Court at which the council will review budget requests of the Department of Public Works & Urban Development. At the regular meeting, the Urban Land Institute will give a 20-minute presentation on development strategies.

Wednesday, Dec. 16: Budget requests of the Plainfield Public Library, the City Clerk's office, the Corporation Counsel's office and the Inspections and Recreation Divisions will be reviewed, 7 p.m. in Municipal Court.

Thursday, Dec. 17: The Capital Budget will be reviewed at 7 p.m. in Municipal Court.

Monday, Dec. 21: Agenda-fixing meeting, 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library for the the Jan. 1 reorganization, 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library. This meeting will also include an 8 p.m. hearing on the FY 2010 introduced budget, which includes a 9.6 percent tax increase.

Once amendments are formulated, they will be published and a final meeting will be held, at which amendments will be adopted and the amended budget will be adopted.

--Bernice Paglia


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