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June 5, 2012 permalink

The new Highland Shores children's aid, formed only on April 1, is already playing the deficit game with the province of Ontario. Its predecessor Hastings CAS regularly overspent its budget, then waited for the province to cover the deficit. [1] [2].



New CAS wrestles with double deficits

EMC News -Belleville -The new Highland Shores Children's Aid agency, an amalgamation of the former Northumberland and Hastings County branches, is preparing for its first annual general meeting and an election of a single chair. That meeting is set for June 14.

In the meanwhile, the board continues to function under joint chairmanship of Karen Kennedy and Darcey French. Election of a single chair will be done at the annual meeting.

The board's meeting Wednesday evening also reviewed finances. From a combined budget of about $30 million, finance director Mark Stevens reported deficits from both branches totalling about $227,000. In both cases, the deficits would be covered if the ministry involved recognizes normal funding on which the budgets were based.

"We are in negotiations with the ministry and we expect these will be resolved," he said. Otherwise, the year-end figures for both agencies came out almost exactly on the mark for budgets set and approved at the start of the fiscal year.

"You get no reward for being accurate," he quipped.

Stevens also commented on hopes for financial savings from the amalgamation and said administration costs have already been pared back by reducing senior staff and more savings will be seen in future. Those savings only impact the provincial budget as there is no levy for the CAS to participating municipalities. But he also stressed that while the savings are beneficial, the key reason such amalgamations were encouraged was to assure an equal level of services to the children and families involved.

For example, the much larger budget of the Hastings County CAS allowed staff resources that small units like Northumberland and Prince Edward County could not afford, he said.

Executive Director Mark Kartusch reported on continuing efforts at uniting the functions of the two agencies, including negotiations for a single union. A vote on that will be held in June, he said.

He also outlined a new "family group counselling" program which, he said, has already shown some positive results in some particularly troubled families.

He enthused about progress toward a province-wide data bank, starting with data amalgamations between the two local boards.

The next regular meeting of the board is June 27 at Cobourg.

Source: Belleville EMC