BUFFALO, N.Y. – We are getting answers after several Erie County Child Protective Services employees said they are not paid enough and their staff is stretched too thin.
They want county leaders to address this so they can better serve children and families.
County Legislator Lynn Dixon sent a letter to County Executive Mark Poloncarz after hearing from those employees. In it she says workers told her Poloncarz wouldn't talk about the concerns because he told them they should be discussed during union negotiations. While Poloncarz reiterated that when we spoke with him Friday afternoon, he answered all of our questions about workload and pay.
The concerns raised by Erie County Child Protective Services employees center around salary and job responsibilities. The workers argue low pay and increased responsibilities are leading to high turnover.
One CPS employee with two years on the job said, "There are days that I cannot sleep because of the stress and anxiety of my caseload."
Another employee said, "We are sometimes not able to take lunches."
And a case worker with a caseload of 30 said, "So many deadlines are impossible to be met."
CPS employees in Erie County say their starting salary is $32,616, and they say the same position pays $48,313 in Onondaga County.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the Onondaga County employees do get paid more, but they're also paying for a portion of their health care.
"It costs us basically 15 to $20,000 per employee. We could certainly offer additional funds to them on an hourly basis if they were willing to take on a greater responsibility with health care," says Poloncarz.
Poloncarz also told us the union rejected a tentative agreement not long ago in which each employee would've gotten a raise of more than $2,000.
Employees are also concerned about workload. In 2015, 2 On Your Side's Michael Wooten reported that the average number of cases per worker had dropped to 22, which was still higher than 15 - the maximum the state recommends.
Poloncarz confirmed Friday that the caseload is now lower than it was in 2015.
"We at one time had over five-thousand cases, we're less than two-thousand. At one point, the average caseload per employee was 50 to 60, now it's in the teens where it's supposed to be. So, there has been a dramatic drop in the caseloads," he said. "If they have an issue with the negotiations that CSEA's doing, they need to talk to their union representatives."
2 On Your Side was able to get in touch with a CPS employee who was willing to speak on-camera Friday night, but she said she could only do that if she got permission from the Social Services Commissioner. It was after-hours, and we were not able to reach him Friday night.