PALM HARBOR – The Palm Harbor Community Services Agency decided April 16 to save $29,000 a year by outsourcing its human resources position to a third-party service instead of replacing the full-time human resources generalist who recently left the organization.
The board did debate potentially removing the position – and the cost of any outsourced services – from the agency’s budget all together. But given the potential structural changes to the agency, the board members decided to try out the human resources service provided by ADP, which currently handles its payroll services, for one year.
“And clearly, if it doesn’t work out, we can go elsewhere,” said Palm Harbor Library Director Gene Coppola in his recommendation to the board.
The savings, in particular, was an attractive reason to pay for the service instead of hiring a new employee, he added.
“Personally, that would help me immensely, because right now I’m looking at a real deficit for fiscal year ’14,” Coppola said.
The agency dealt with two of its employees leaving recently, human resources generalist Mary Mason and a part-time employee who handled clerical work. The directors of the three entities overseen by the agency – which includes the Palm Harbor Parks and Recreation and the East Lake Community Library – as well as agency board members handled the various tasks in the interim. Agency chair Rex Haslam was so involved that staff hung a paper sign that read “Rex’s Office” temporarily on a door at the Palm Harbor Library.
“Everybody’s chipped in; everybody’s done a great job. As far as we know, there’s nothing fallen through the cracks. I’m happy to be able to tell you that, but I also want to tell you: I don’t want to continue it. I want that paper taken down,” he said with a laugh.
The part-time human resources clerk, Deborah Griswold, accepted her new position April 16. But that still left the full-time position unfilled. The agency heard a presentation from ADP representatives about the human resources services they offered during the agency’s March meeting, but they tabled the issue for further discussion.
Board member Terry Haas said April 16 that he questioned the value of ADP’s service. The company would charge cost $35,000 a year to handle human resources services for 61 employees hired by the three entities.
“I was a little bit underwhelmed with their presentation,” Haas said. “There’s a lot of overhead using something like this. I wasn’t convinced that they added enough value for that overhead.”
The agency’s attorney Andy Salzman pointed out that the agency didn’t have that many human resources issues that only a specialist would be able to handle. The service, however, could provide quick technical answers and guidance.
“On the bigger issues, I don’t think ADP is the solution,” Salzman said.
Coppola said that if the question had faced the board even 15 years ago, when he was a newer director, he might not advise that they do away with an in-house human resources specialist. But now, he and his fellow directors were “seasoned veterans.”
“We have over 30 years of hard-earned management experience. We’ve done it all,” Coppola said. “We don’t know everything, but we do know what to ask and where to go to get it.”
Salzman agreed. The directors were certainly competent to handle day-to-day human resources issues.
“You’re not replacing Mary. But other people are doing what Mary did and this will help part of that gap,” he said.
Board member Rob Moore said he didn’t initially think the third-party service offered much value. But the East Lake Youth Sports Association is requesting property tax revenue similar to the funds the collected for the Palm Harbor Parks and Recreation. Should the county approve their request in a June 24 hearing, the agency likely would oversee the new revenue stream on the county’s behalf.
The organizational chart of the agency might change in the near future, Moore said.
Auditing issues not resolved
Disappointment and frustration continued as the board again discussed its most recent audit report with a new company. DKM Certified Accountants came highly recommended, Coppola said, but agency’s auditing experience has not lived up to expectations.
As requested in March, the auditors provided a letter outlining the problems they saw with the agency’s finances. But the issues brought up were not specific enough for the directors to address the problem, and the directors said they had no opportunity to work with the auditors before the report was initially presented to the board.
Many of the issues were related to the auditors’ recommendation to switch to an accrual rather than a cash basis of accounting. But the problems were deeper than that, Salzman said.
“Their presentation was absolutely horrible, and the follow up hasn’t helped us,” he said. “Why would you want to continue with this auditor?”