RD491 - Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program Business Analysis: Final Report – March 2021
The Commission on VASAP provides regulatory oversight of the statewide ASAP system along with the statewide ignition interlock and remote alcohol monitoring programs. VASAP began in 1972 as a series of pilot-programs implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and has operated on offender fees without receiving state general fund tax dollars.
The Commission on VASAP has completed a comprehensive review of the financial viability of the VASAP system. Our review includes a study completed by the Virginia Commonwealth University Performance Management Group.
The VASAP system is made up of 24 local Alcohol Safety Action Programs. The system’s revenues are predominately made up of offender fees with no state appropriations. The Arlington and Fairfax ASAP locations have received significant financial contributions from their localities for decades. In absence of this funding, these two programs would not be able to operate in their current form, severely impacting service ability in those highly-populated areas. For this reason, they are not included in this review. Among the remaining 22 programs there is approximately $7,046,852 in unexpended revenue and $4,491,284 in owned building value. We also identified that there are several ASAP directors that have individual salaries equaling more than 25% of their overall annual budget.
From the years 2009 through 2021, the Commonwealth of Virginia has withdrawn $8,350,000 in unexpended funds from the commission state office. The commission state office’s funds are used to fund critical statewide program costs that otherwise go uncovered to include, but not limited to, information technology upgrades, leadership training and operation of satellite offices in remote areas. Moving forward, the commission’s unexpended funds will be critical to successful implementation of the recommendations cited below and the overall stability of the VASAP statewide system. Annual transfers from the commission to the general fund greater than $250,000 would affect the commission’s ability to maintain the financial viability of the statewide system.
Most programs have been able to accumulate funds even though the ASAP system does not receive state funds and there has been no increase in ASAP fees since 1987. ASAPs that are in poor financial condition will benefit from the recommendations cited below. Although the commission has taken action to alleviate the financial burden on programs by reducing the state share of fees owed by local programs (since 2005), funding education workbooks, funding critical training and providing over $1,000,000 in hardware, software and case management system enhancements there are still actions required to maintain the financial solvency of the VASAP system.
Our review found that regionalization and/or merger of programs, creation of satellite offices, revenue sharing and standardization of ASAP program organization are necessary to ensure financial stability of the statewide VASAP system.
Summary of the VASAP System
At the request of the Commission, a recent study was conducted of the statewide VASAP system by the Virginia Commonwealth University Performance Management Group due to weaknesses in the ASAP referral base and the deteriorating financial solvency of multiple programs.
The following recommendations, dated March 2021, were provided by the Virginia Commonwealth University Performance Management Group:
1. create and utilize systems for revenue sharing across ASAP offices to ensure continuation of operations, staffing levels and equity of service.
2. request that each ASAP office submit a viability plan and consider consolidation of ASAPs that cannot demonstrate long-term financial stability.
3. consider regionalization of ASAP offices with satellite units in more rural areas.
4. consider regionalization of ASAP offices with greater density.
5. identify and leverage opportunities to move ASAP offices into courthouses.
6. consider sharing costs and coordinating scheduling to contracted instructors.
7. provide enhanced professional and leadership development for ASAP directors.
Commission on VASAP Actions to Date to Address Financial Solvency of Programs:
1. funded critical training for all ASAP employees from 2017 through 2022, which would not be available or affordable otherwise, in the amount of $250,522.
2. reduced the 10% allowable state share of fees owed by the ASAPs to the state office to 3% in 2005. The amount of uncollected state share of fees from 2012-2020 totaled $799,020.
3. funded education workbooks from 2016 through 2022 in the amount of $525,902.
4. fully funded the ASAP web-based case management system used throughout the state from 2018 through 2022 in the amount of approximately $1,000,000.
5. coordinated with DMV to provide an electronic interlock monitoring system called Traffic Electronic Data System (TREDS) which was funded by DMV.
6. updating ASAP regulations through the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall effective August 1, 2022.
7. funded programs with laptop computers and software in 2022 to increase mobility in the amount of $58,164.
8. provided $63,000 in financial assistance to open a satellite office in the Tri-River area in 2022.
9. supplied commission staff in order to maintain continuity of services at locals ASAPs.
10. provided updated software, computers and telephone system for Southwest Virginia ASAP in the amount of $12,615.
11. allocation to the local ASAPs by the VASAP state office of state funds collected from interlock vendors in 2022 totaling $467,110.
It is recommended that regionalization and/or merger of programs, creation of satellite offices or a combination thereof, occur in order to ensure that ASAP services are available to all citizens of the Commonwealth which is instrumental to protecting highway safety. The commission office has started this process by contributing financial resources to certain programs responsible for large geographical areas enabling them to provide services to clients residing in remote areas of the state. It should be noted that some localities have contributed funds to ASAP programs and those funds would be excluded from revenue sharing implementations. There is a precedent for program merger as the system was originally composed of 26 programs that have been reduced to 24 in order to increase program efficiency.
It is recommended that a system of revenue sharing be implemented. As noted above, there are several programs with large amounts of unexpended revenue while some programs are in poor financial condition. Sharing of revenue will ensure that all citizens of the Commonwealth receive high-quality services regardless of where they reside. It is important to note that the programs in Arlington and Fairfax receive considerable funding from their localities and are not a part of this recommendation.
It is recommended that individual ASAP program organizational structures are standardized. The commission office has started this process by repealing outdated regulations. The introduction of new ASAP regulations, through the Town Hall system, is a way to provide regulations that are in time with current processes, procedures and organizational frameworks. It is recommended that the local ASAPs inquire with the courts in their area on possible space available to house their program. This would eliminate rent/mortgage expenses, provide additional safety for ASAP employees and provide clients with the ability to obtain ASAP services just minutes after conviction.
Many of the local ASAPs have submitted individual recommendations to the commission over the past year in regards to viability of their programs. In addition, in the first part of this year, the Executive Committee of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program Director’s Association submitted a request to the commission regarding viability. In each instance, their request was to increase fees on the citizens of the Commonwealth. Raising fees on the citizens of the commonwealth is not a recommendation in this report. In lieu of this plan, there are many other more desirable options available to maintain the viability of the local programs which are cited in this report. It is important to note that there is a small percentage of ASAP directors that oppose an increase in fees.
It is recommended that the local ASAPs coordinate with each other to find opportunities to reduce operational costs by sharing contracts and services with mutual stakeholders to include, but not limited to, class instructors, labs and healthcare providers for employee benefits.
It is recommended that the commission continue to provide professional and leadership training to the ASAP directors via a system where continuing education credits are required on an annual basis. The commission has already created a testing site for ASAP employees with plans to incorporate into the continuing education curriculum once fully developed.
It is recommended that legislation is proposed to empower the commission to regionalize, reorganize or merge programs, providing sufficient notice to affected programs.
Implementation of the above recommendations guarantees the distribution of ASAP services to all citizens on a longer term basis, maintains lower rates of recidivism and protects highway safety on the roads of the Commonwealth through standardization of services across the state.
Recommended legislation is to modify Virginia Code 18.2-271.2, Subsection B, to read as follows:
The Commission shall be empowered to de-certify, regionalize, re-organize or merge local alcohol safety action programs to include finances and personnel, to establish and ensure the maintenance of minimum standards and criteria for program operations and performance, accounting, auditing, public information and administrative procedures for the various local alcohol safety action programs and shall be responsible for overseeing the administration of the statewide VASAP system. Such programs shall be certified by the Commission in accordance with procedures set forth in the Commission on VASAP Certification Manual. The Commission shall also oversee program plans, operations and performance and a system for allocating funds to cover deficits that may occur in the budgets of local programs.
In addition, it is recommended to modify Virginia Code 18.2-271.1, Subsections B and I, to read as follows:
B. The court shall require the person entering such program under the provisions of this section to pay a fee of no less than $250 but no more than $300. A reasonable portion of such fee, as may be determined by the Commission on VASAP, but not to exceed
I. The Commission on VASAP, or any county, city, town, or any combination thereof, with approval by the Commission on VASAP, may establish and, if established, shall operate, in accordance with the standards and criteria required by this subsection, alcohol safety action programs in connection with highway safety.