The Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties will cut its staff by four people and operate four days a week after the loss of a contract that reduces the organization's annual budget by $500,000, center officials said Thursday. The cuts are the latest blow to South Sound social service groups as they deal with a lack of funding in a slower economy.
A portion of the center’s services was to work as a subcontractor for another organization called Paratransit, transporting Medicaid patients to their medical appointments, making 250 trips a month.
Paratransit has decided to end its relationship with the center – something it was allowed to do under its contract – likely because it was facing its own drop in federal and state funding, Center Executive Director Sara Ballard said. “We know there are a lot of budget cuts around these kinds of entities,” she said.
The contract ends Feb. 5 and the center will reduce its hours, starting Feb. 14, she said. Four staff members also will lose their jobs, while four remaining staff members have taken salary cuts of about 20 percent. About 30 volunteers who helped drive the patients to their appointments no longer are needed, although the center is trying to find volunteer work for them with other agencies, she said.
A representative of Paratransit in Bremerton could not be reached.
Ballard said she knew the budget cuts were coming but didn’t think they would take effect so soon. The center’s annual budget of $880,000 has been slashed by $500,000, leaving it about six month’s of reserves, she said, adding that the organization hopes to have a new business plan in place in the next 60 days.
The center also receives funding from grants and donations, longtime board president Russ Carstensen said. The center, which operates out of downtown’s Olympia Center, trains volunteers that serve 1,300 organizations in the three-county area, he said.
Although the organization is facing some major budget cuts, it still plans to organize three upcoming events, including the Economic Survival Fair on Feb. 5 and free tax preparation services will be offered Friday through April 18.
Ballard defended the center, saying she didn’t think management was at fault for the predicament it was in. The center has worked to diversify its funding streams so that the organization wasn’t so reliant on the Paratransit funding, whittling its contribution to the overall budget to 60 percent from 85 percent, Ballard said. “It’s going to take a lot of work and people to redesign the Volunteer Center,” Ballard said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/bizblog