04/20/06 — County health board presents $7.6 million budget

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County health board presents $7.6 million budget

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 20, 2006 1:46 PM

The Board of Health approved the county Health Department's proposed $7.6 million budget Wednesday, which reflects a nearly half million dollar increase over the previous year's figures.

Health Director James Roosen said the projected amount for 2006-07 includes a $98,000 increase in salaries and benefits, $50,000 for a new nursing position, $200,000 for enhancements to the medical records system, a new vehicle for Environmental Health and some capital improvements.

State and local tax dollars comprise about 60 percent of the budget, Roosen said. An additional $24,102 is anticipated from state dollars in the coming year, and $2.8 million will be requested from the local funding source, county commissioners. That amount equates to an additional $652,415 for 2006-07, he said.

Board member Efton Sager, who is also a commissioner, questioned the figure, saying it might be difficult for the commission to approve

Board member Steve Smith, who made the motion to approve the preliminary numbers, noted that the budget is a give-and-take process.

"In order to get something started, we have to get something started," he said. "We'll address those changes when the time comes."

"We will definitely have to prioritize a lot of these requests," Roosen said.

Explaining some of the line items, he said there were some reductions expected in some of the revenue for the coming year, including block grant cuts, a 15-percent cut, or $10,000, in bioterrorism funding and shifts to Medicaid earnings. Some of the anticipated fees in Environmental Health had also been overestimated, he said.

As for expenses, Roosen said another nursing position is needed in the area of communicable disease.

"Because of an increase in TB, there is the need for more home visits," he said. "We're also turning away a lot of patients with sexually transmitted diseases -- about five patients a day. We're asking them to come back. It's not a good situation."

Space is another concern, he said. In the WIC Department, for example, Roosen said, four workers occupied a 100-square-foot office, which makes for cramped quarters as well as raising privacy issues for patients.

Estimated cost to expand or relocate the office was $119,000. Another capital improvement cost mentioned was $50,000 for additional air conditioning in the dental department.

The biggest expense, $200,000 for scanning medical records, would not only address some of the space issues but consolidate records and make them more readily available, Roosen said.

He said he had recently measured one area where records were kept, estimated it at 850 square feet. The change will contribute to saving more paper, as well as helping with security and the ability to access the records much quicker, he said.

A $50,000 software package is also on the list, which will be used for lab information.

"We do 40,000 tests per year in the Health Department lab," Roosen said. "That's a lot of paper. So when you do a test, it could automatically be downloaded."