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Vilas County social services concern

December 27, 2019 by Kayla Houp

The Vilas County board’s finance and budget committee on Thursday, Dec. 19, heard a report from the social services committee during letters and communication regarding a budget concern.

“I received notice yesterday about the out of home care cost,” finance director Jason Hilger said. “It looks like it’s going to be substantially overspent.”

While the cost being overspent isn’t unusual, Hilger said, it was more overspent than he had initially thought.

“Trying to be transparent with supervisors, and of course, the media, when information is apparent to me in numerics, I try to bring them to the people,” he said.

Hilger added that while the presentation was for information-only, the issue could be added to the committee and full board’s agendas in January.

“One of the questions was, you know, we created that position for our foster care coordinator, with the thought that was going to save the county some dollars,” Vilas County social services director Kate Gardner said. “It doesn’t reflect the cost savings that are in there for what she has done.”

Gardner explained how some costs had gone over what was expected.

Gardner said the number of county-licensed foster homes had gone up from five to 13, with another five pending.

“Going into the new year, we’ll have 18,” Gardner said. “Which is huge.”

With 14 kids placed in the current 13 licensed foster homes in Oneida County, the county saves $31,180 in administrative fees per month versus if the children had been placed in a non-county treatment foster home.

The average yearly saving then, was $374,169.60 in administrative fees.

According to Gardner, the potential yearly savings once the five pending foster homes in the licensing process is projected to be $510,000 per year. 

Gardner directed the committee’s attention to administration costs.

“We pay what we pay our county-licensed home, then we pay this additional admin fee, so every time we license a county-foster home, we’re saving those admin fees,” Gardner said.

Gardner said those savings weren’t visible in the reports.

“It’s not a visible savings, it’s something that we’ve done, so it’s not going into the treatment, we’re not seeing it as a cost on that line,” Gardner said.

The next thing Gardner thought was imperative, where why those costs were so high.

Part of the reason, Gardner said, was due to having more placements, but also that some placements were high-need children.

“That’s where our costs are,” Gardner said.

Committee chair Ron DeBruyne asked if there was any state aid to reimburse the costs.

“No, not really,” Gardner said. “Not when you get right down to it.”

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]


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