City Council to decide funding for human services coordinator

March 30, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

City Council members will decide next week whether Issaquah should continue to keep a human services guru on the city payroll.Months after council members considered cutting the post to save money, members will decide whether to retain city Human Services Coordinator Steve Gierke. Legislation headed to the council April 5 calls for the city to spend $23,250 to fund the position, as well as a recording secretary to attend city Human Services Commission meetings, through December.

The expenditure for the coordinator post will be equivalent to about one-third of the cost of a full-time employee. Gierke, as a consultant contracted by the city rather than a full-time employee, does not receive city benefits.

City Council members eliminated funding for the position in the 2010 budget after the first quarter of the year. The council included $10,000 in the 2010 budget for the post. Members directed city staffers to determine if the duties assigned to Gierke could be redistributed to other employees.

Deputy City Administrator Joe Meneghini presented a report to the Council Services & Safety Committee last week with details about the position. Because officials cut the municipal workforce by 10 percent last year — though layoffs, a hiring freeze and a severance program — city departments lack the manpower to pick up human services-related tasks, the report states.

“There are no ready resources available to fully fund and fully staff this function,” Meneghini said at the March 24 committee meeting.

“Shifting from the current human services contract to in-house administration would result in a reduction in support for human services,” the report continues. “The result would be gaps in services and potential glitches in overall performance.”

Gierke oversees a broad human services portfolio — the council funds 31 agencies and 37 programs — and serves as the liaison to the appointed city Human Services Commission. The portfolio also includes management of the human services grants awarded by the city, and negotiation and oversight for human services contracts. Gierke acts as the liaison between the city and human services agencies.

“I see what I do as kind of the glue to Issaquah human services” efforts, he said.

Gierke said he welcomed the review, although the timing — near the end of the monthslong budget process — surprised him.

“One of the good things about the review was that it educated a lot of people about what they were receiving,” he said.

Members of the city Human Services Commission cautioned the council against eliminating the position.

“In light of all of these considerations, the commission believes that the elimination of the human services coordinator position would severely curtail the city’s ability to fulfill its commitment to human services,” commission Chairman Paul Winterstein and Vice Chairwoman Kim Jenkins wrote in a Feb. 24 letter to city leaders.

Mayor Ava Frisinger and the council will address how — or if — to fund the liaison position next year when discussions about the 2011 municipal budget begin in October.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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