Housing Authority to pare jobs

Monday, April 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:54 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A significant change in leadership roles at the Columbia Housing Authority should save the agency $150,000 and ensure more efficient performance, Executive Director Doris Chiles said. The shift would eliminate nine positions, including three that would be displaced by hiring an outside company to handle agency finances.

The restructuring will also help prepare the authority for Chiles’ departure, she said, though she wouldn’t say how soon that might come.

The Housing Authority Board of Commissioners will select the financial company and vote on the reorganization at its May 18 meeting. If the board approves the plan, the changes would take effect immediately.

Chiles said she has tinkered with the structure of the authority since becoming director in 1996. But streamlining might be even more critical in a year of financial scrutiny. The agency’s comptroller resigned in February after auditors informed Chiles and commissioners of a $200,000 shortfall. The comptroller later admitted he had used capital project fund money earmarked for this fiscal year to pay bills in fiscal 2003.

Chiles said the agency has compensated for the shortfall by leaving 11 positions vacant and outsourcing for accounting services.

The authority also expects a $50,000 surplus this fiscal year because of savings from the job vacancies.

After hearing Chiles’ pitch for an administrative reorganization at a Tuesday meeting, board Chairman Marvin Kinney expressed concerns about the price tag. Chiles, however, said it saves money in salaries and benefits.

Under the changes, Chiles would remain director. But only two senior staff members would report directly to her, rather than the current eight. Of the two new senior staff jobs, one would be in charge of administering housing programs, and the other would oversee asset management.

“It still involves the same functions,” she said. “It’s just a different line of authority.”

A specific asset manager would be responsible for finances and coordination with the outside financial service, as well as overseeing capital improvements, buildings and equipment.

Chiles said separating the management of housing programs and assets will make monitoring finances more efficient.

With two administrators managing day-to-day operations of the authority, Chiles said she would have more time to plan within the agency and seek financial resources and partnerships from the community.

Further restructuring of staff that oversees authority grounds and facilities would improve the areas’ physical appearance, she said. While six maintenance positions will remain unfilled, Chiles said she’s not overly concerned because those jobs involved renovating vacant public housing units, and the trend is toward fewer vacancies.

Current employees most likely will fill the new positions, Chiles said. She hopes to have all the jobs filled by Oct. 1.

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