Sam Kay

Starting Feb. 2, fewer people at the Butler County Department of Job and Family Services (JFS) will be doing more work.

A dozen employees have been laid off, and four other positions have been eliminated through retirement and attrition. Additionally, a division director is set to retire in April.

Jerome Kearns, assistant director of JFS, said the cuts include five supervisors, which will double the workload for the remaining five. Staff will also have to cover some clerical duties on a rotating basis.

Kearns said the elimination of the 17 positions is part of an effort to absorb a $2.5 million decrease in revenue over the past year, down from $35.3 million in 2007. Kearns said JFS is also terminating some community contracts and has cut its office supplies budget by more than one- third.

“The approach that we took was to determine what we have to have in place to continue to provide the core services we are mandated to provide: childcare assistance, Medicaid, food stamps, Ohio Works First, and adult protective services,” Kearns said.

State JFS spokesman Dennis Evans blamed the economy for the increased workload and decreased resources. In December, the state JFS budget was cut by 5.75 percent-the third such cut within the past year.

“We’re in a new world with a new economy that is placing increased challenges on much fewer resources,” Evans said.

Kearns said JFS’s unprecedented workload increase is a reflection of the economy. He said JFS has had to increase its food stamp payouts by more than $500,000 during the past month to $3.7 million per month. Kearns said nearly 10 percent of Butler County residents are now on food stamps. Kearns pointed out that when he started work at JFS nine years ago, only $800,000 a month was paid out for food stamps.

With more cases to handle, Kearns said “JFS will have to do more, differently.”

Kearns said JFS is determined not to allow the cuts to affect services.

“We’re going to have more work on our plate and its going to force us to do things differently,” Kearns said, “but I’m not ready to say ‘we can no longer do that.'”

Kearns warned that further cuts would likely affect services.

“In this round, we have been able to protect the people who determine eligibility … if the state comes down with more cuts, services will be hit in a way that none of us will be comfortable with,” he said.

With the economy still in trouble, Evans warned further cuts were a possibility.

“We’re coming into a new budget, and it’s all up for discussion in the budget process,” Evans said.

According to Kearns, the employees leaving JFS will be paid for any remaining vacation or personal time they have, and will have the option of continuing their health insurance through February.