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Fairfax orders audit of social services agency

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Local,Virginia,Aubrey Whelan

Fairfax County supervisors on Tuesday ordered an investigation into how the county's cash-strapped social services agency ended up with a multimillion-dollar hole in its budget.

The audit of how the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board collects from insurance companies and bills its clients is part of intensifying scrutiny that the social-services provider faces after reporting a $9.4 million shortfall in its budget for next year. Fairfax supervisors spent the past several weeks looking for ways to preserve programs for the county's homeless, elderly and mentally disabled.

The agency blamed most of its financial woes on skyrocketing personnel costs, declining state aid and a drop in revenues from insurance companies.

The county's Department of Management and Budget is already investigating "fiscal and accountability concerns" within the agency, but supervisors voted to launch a second audit to look specifically at how the services board bills clients and collects payments from insurance companies.

"There's a structural imbalance here. We need to look at this holistically," said Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay. "We need to look at immediate needs, but also a long-term plan. These services affect people's lives. We need to act quickly and be comprehensive."

Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity alleged in a May 25 letter that the agency lost up to $900,000 for its Infant & Toddler Connection, a program for developmentally delayed kids, because it didn't collect enough from insurance providers.

Fairfax-Falls Church CSB representatives didn't return calls for comment Tuesday, but the agency's executive director, George Braunstein, said last week that the services board has stepped up efforts to collect insurance revenues.

Despite their concern over the Community Service Board's financial troubles, supervisors on Tuesday stopped short of recommending cuts in social service programs.

Supervisors insist they simply want to help the board with its funding crisis, not cut programs, and they've set aside $4 million in next year's budget to do just that.

"CSB has a shortfall based on a number of different factors," Board Chairman Sharon Bulova said.

"We're adding to the city's bottom line in an attempt to close this shortfall."

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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