Senior services debate continues

ST. CLAIRSVILLE The debate continues as Senior Services completes its transition from a subsidiary of the Department of Job and Family Services to a separate department under the authority of the commissioners. The

Commissioner Matt Coffland raised an objection to the appointing of Barb Ballint as full-time program administrator, with salary and benefits of $49,402. She will join the management team of Senior Services Coordinator David Hacker, Program Administrator Martina Burkhart, and Fiscal Administrator John Carlier, with salaries and benefits of $65,965, $69,431, and $60,091 respectively.

Coffland argued against the costs of the new administrators and asserted the budget would be excessive compared to the prior arrangement.

He presented an analysis by Vince Gianangeli of DJFS, who also served as fiscal administrator for the senior services when the agency was combined, expressing doubts that the separate department as structured could provide all accustomed services for less funding. He criticized the use of five quarters in a comparison with one year. He also said the use of three of the five quarters overstated wages and benefits for shared costs. Gianangeli argued that the last two quarters should be used, which projects the annual cost is between $117,000 to $120,000.

He also added that DJFS was able to save levy dollars by having two drivers on the Public Assistance payroll and recoup the cost through the federal program.

Commissioner Ginny Favede argued that the total combined salaries and benefits for the two program supervisors under DJFS came to $149,866. Commissioner Charles R. Probst, Jr. added that the numbers presented were not yet finalized and information was still being received from Coordinator David Hacker.

Hacker said Ballint’s addition as a program administrator completed the management structure and new positions will not be sought.

He pointed out that Martina Burkhart was not a new hire but a rollover from DJFS who will continue her work with Senior Services.

He said the total cost during the past five quarters was about $411,000, including shared services and management. Total hours invested in the five quarters would be a little more than 8,000.

“We are modifying that to have four full-time individuals,” he said. “Over five quarters the four full-time management staff members will work 10,400 hours. So it’s about equivocal to just over a 28-percent increase in hours of dedication to senior services, so you’ll see a drastic increase to the number of hours that are going to be put into managing and overseeing the administrative structure.”

Overall cost for program operation has not yet been determined, but projected cost is $306,000 for administrative management costs.

He said the data from the five quarters was reported to him from DJFS to form a picture of historical data and actual cost. He added that a comparison with the last two quarters shows DJFS employees devoted 1,765.5 hours at a cost of $133,494 in the managerial and administrative fields. Hacker said his projections show Senior Services employees devoting 4,160 hours at a cost of $122,444 in wages and benefits.

Regarding drivers, Hacker said it may be possible to continue to save levy dollars through federal reimbursement.

Hacker said the additional hours will be devoted to enhancing and building on current programs, including an increase of meals to home-bound seniors, additional recreation activities at the centers, and increasing the number of seniors they are able to transport in medical transportation.

Hacker also hopes to offer adult day services.

“We’re looking at various programs that currently aren’t available under the current structure,” he said.

They are also working with the Area Agency on Aging to streamline operations and increase efficiency. Options available include offering training for seniors benefit them in their life.

He noted the qualities of the administrative team. The fiscal administrator has more than 30 years of experience in financial accounting and is well versed in the processes of county government. Burkhart brings 20 years of experience with senior services. Hacker had been in program and service delivery for 10 years in a variety of settings. Ballint is experienced as a director in parking and recreation in Ohio and has developed creative programs for a wide range of clients including seniors and children.

He added that while salaries increase over time, the Senior Services staff will not receive the same benefits as DJFS employees.

He said all of the operations are transferring smoothly from DJFS and added they are enjoying the support and confidence of the current staff.

“We’re hoping we can get a lot of input from the current staff that are here that have been providing these direct services to assist with a good plan moving forward,” he said. “The folks here are very warm and welcoming and our staff really work together very fluidly.”

Hacker also noted the importance of transparency and said he plans to continue the practice of regular reports to the commissioners.

“This is all public dollars, public information, public programs, so we should be able to easily access any piece of it that they would like,” he said. “This process has been a long one over the last could of years for seniors being shifted from one setup to the next. I think this is a final home for senior services and I think we’re putting together a very well-rounded team of individuals and a well-rounded set of practitioners and direct care providers that devoted to making sure that seniors feel that they are working with family members.

DeFrank can be reached at