By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
Three Madison County Health Department employees will lose their jobs next month and six more will have their hours cut after the county board of health unanimously passed a $12.8 million budget affected by significant cuts in state and federal funding.
The Madison County Board of Health also approved Wednesday evening a motion to keep the current property tax rate at 5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The MCHD taxing district rate has been the same since 2005, Chief Finance Officer David Reed said.
Health Director Nancy Crewe noted that health departments across the state have been forced make major cuts to deal with the reduction in state and federal funding. The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department is laying off 25 people, she said.
The layoff of three people at the Madison County Health Department is about 3 percent of its total work force, Crewe said.
“I prefer to think of it as we’ve retained 97 percent of our people,” Crewe said.
Crewe added that no health department services will be reduced or compromised because of the reduction in staff.
Health department spokesperson Christie Green explained there is a process dictated by the state that the health department must go through in order to determine which positions will be laid off. The layoff plan must be approved by the state Department of Public Health.
Green anticipated the nine people affected by the budget’s cuts will be notified in mid-July.
The FY 2013 budget, which runs from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, also does not include an annual increment, or pay raise, for health department employees. Reed said when preparing the budget he tried to plug in a small increase, but the numbers just didn’t work out in this “tough budget cycle.”
Health department employees were notified in writing last week about the reduced government funding, and they were told layoffs, furloughs and a reduction of hours were some of the options being considered to reduce personnel costs.
The employees also were told about Wednesday’s budget meeting and that “the press can put a negative spin on the board discussions,” according to the distributed document. The workers were told to prepare for newspaper articles after the board meeting and to watch for “our own internal communications about the meeting.”
Other reductions on the expenditure side of the budget will come from ending the leases on the Diabetes Center and Preparedness offices and on the Powell County MEPCO office. The health department also does not plan on filling positions that are currently open, and some contractual services will be ending, including the cleaning service at the Irvine office.
Overall, the health department was able to shave off nearly $800,000 from its expenditures compared to last fiscal year’s budget.
State and federal grants to the health department dropped $211,044 and $245,211, respectively, from last fiscal year’s funding. This is around a 20-percent reduction in those funding sources.
Another major impact to the budget was Medicaid reimbursements which were $612,000 less than projected in last year’s budget, affecting the health department’s home health service, MEPCO. In the new FY 2013 budget, the health department adjusted its expected Medicaid reimbursement down by 21 percent compared to last fiscal year’s budget.
On the revenue side, the health department got a boost from both Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center and the Madison County Board of Education. PAC donated $50,500 to the health department as a gesture of community support, and the MCHD was able to negotiate the annual school health clinics contract at $139,000 more than last year.
Taxing district and new revenue
Reed presented a separate budget that detailed the revenue gained through the health department’s taxing district. The agency receives funding from a percentage of tangible property taxes, motor vehicle tax, delinquent tax collections, a telecom tax and interest income.
Reed projected more money coming in this year from the taxing sources because of higher assessments and better collections. The FY 2012 collections were $2.325 million, and the new budget projects collections of $2.515 million.
The budget recommended appropriating $2.5 million of the tax revenue to the health department, some of which is for the capital fund. Earlier this month, the health board learned that the Berea clinic’s building needed major repairs in order to correct concrete slab settlement issues and to improvement accessibility for the handicapped. The board has not yet approved any repair plan, but the work is projected to cost from $150,000 to $270,500.
The taxing district budget, after enactment of the new FY 2013 budget, would have a remaining balance of $4.3 million. One board member asked if that money could be used to keep the three positions slated for layoffs, but no motion was made to do so.
Reed said in the past the board has pushed to put the tax revenue back for building projects. He noted that the Boggs Lane clinic building might soon need work.
“At some point, the aging facility will need to be replaced,” Reed said. Green said the building was constructed in 1969 but did receive some updates in 2002.
Green also said that the $4.3 million acts as the health department’s contingency fund with usually an amount equal to three-month’s worth of the operating budget kept in reserve.
Another board member asked if the health department was exploring ways to increase revenue through means other than grants and taxes.
Crewe said she has been meeting with representatives from PAC about an “enhanced partnership.” She would not reveal the specifics of the talks but said she was meeting with the hospital Monday to go over a proposal.
“I think it will be a win-win for all of us,” Crewe said.
Crewe also said the MCHD was the only one out of six health departments that was able to keep its Diabetes Center for Excellence open. The program helps Medicaid members and others with diabetes better manage their disease “through a unique partnership involving the patient, primary care physician, local health department and community resources,” according to the MCHD website.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6694.