Alamance County ponders travel costs for training
GRAHAM — At the close of budget season, the Alamance County Board of Commissioners raised some questions about the expenses of county employees traveling to trainings and conferences.
“I think we’ve got to study as hard as we can what we’re doing as far as travel,” Commissioner Tim Sutton said at the board’s latest meeting. “I think it’s out of hand, frankly.”
At Sutton’s request, County Manager Bryan Hagood shared the county’s training expenses:
$288,239: total county training budget
$195,616: total spent in fiscal 2018–2019 as of June 17
$145,571: amount of that spend on training employees needed to maintain professional certifications
$50,045: amount spend on trainings not required
The Sheriff’s Office, Department of Social Services and Information Technology were the biggest users of the travel budget, Hagood said. Some of their travel and training costs came through grants and sometimes through state reimbursements, often called “pass-through” money since the county writes a check but gets paid back. Often the cost came out of the county budget, but those numbers were not broken out in Hagood’s figures.
The commissioners have to approve out-of-state travel, and those applications break out more of those details:
$79,153: amount requested for out of state travel as of June 17 and approved by the commissioners, according to their meeting agendas
$27,517 of that came from state funds like the Governor’s Crime Commission
$12,120 came from grants
$63,965: out-of-state travel for trainings not required for certifications
$15,188: out-of-state trainings required for certifications
Many grants awarded to county departments require additional training for county employees, which often requires travel that isn’t needed for certifications. One of the items approved this month for DSS was like that.
Several DSS employees will go to New Orleans for the Healthy Teen Network Conference to get training for Sexual Health Initiative for Teens. They will be able to train other DSS employees on what they learn, DSS Director Adrian Daye said. It was covered by a grant.
“So this is grant money in, grant money out,” Commissioner Steve Carter said.
Another request will send the DSS fraud investigator to the United Council on Welfare Frauds annual conference in Chattanooga, which Daye said would be paid for with incentive funds from the state for catching fraud.
“I’m OK with that one,” Commissioner Bill Lashley said.
The only request that got any resistance was $7,126 — reimbursable funds — to send 12 young people in foster care and four chaperones to Atlanta. It’s an annual trip, Daye said, intended to teach financial responsibility, how to build support networks, and how to avoid risky behavior to kids who will soon be out of foster care.
“It’s a small thing,” Daye said, “but it’s big for the children we serve.”
Lashley cast the only vote against that one.
Sutton said he supported all those applications, but was still suspicious of travel spending, having seen memos in the past requesting departments to bring as many as 10 people to a conference.
“People make money off these,” Sutton said.
Hagood told the commissioners departments would start informing the commissioners when grants they were applying for required travel.
Reporter Isaac Groves can be reached at [email protected] or 336-506-3045. Follow him on Twitter at @tnigroves.