Sunday, October 21, 2018

Andrew Dowd

Additional veteran services worker unlikely, but office move planned

  • EC-CountyCourthouse-jpg-jpg-1

Eau Claire County’s Veteran Services Office likely won’t get an additional employee next year to help with its rising caseload.

An $87,000 request for salary, benefits and associated costs for an administrative assistant didn’t make it into the proposed 2018 budget facing the County Board for a vote this week.

That position would’ve been paid through additional local property tax dollars, which are hard to come by for operating costs such as salaries under state-imposed tax levy limits.

Several other positions made it into the county’s proposed budget, but most are funded entirely by state or federal programs, and some rely just partly on local tax dollars.

Even though the local Veteran Services Office employees are county workers paid through property taxes, they bring in a large amount of benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for county residents. In 2016, the county office got about $37.2 million in benefits for local veterans.

Upcoming move

Instead of extra staffing, the three-person Veteran Services Office will move to new quarters next year, which could help somewhat with the workload.

The office will relocate next to the Aging and Disability Resource Center on the courthouse’s first floor with the two services sharing a lobby.

“It makes sense to be with the ADRC for what we do,” county veteran services director Tim Moore said last week at a Finance and Budget Committee meeting.

His office usually sees one to two people a day that get veterans benefits and also make use of ADRC services as well. The two offices currently are both on the first floor, but going between them requires leaving the building and going into a separate entrance because of how the courthouse is laid out.

Sharing quarters is expected to be more convenient for clients and ideally help workers by sharing reception duties.

The Finance and Budget Committee approved a line-item transfer at its Thursday meeting to use $25,000 in the 2017 budget to renovate space for the veteran services move.

Renovations will include rerouting noisy ventilation ducts and putting up some privacy walls. The budget transfer is coming from $40,000 left over in the facilities portion of the county budget, due to postponing planning for a new Highway Department building.

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