04/19/12 — County Board of Health approves budget proposal

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County Board of Health approves budget proposal

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 19, 2012 1:46 PM

Davin Madden

The Wayne County Board of Health on Wednesday approved an $8.6 million budget for 2012-13 and welcomed the new health director, whose first order of business was to change the board's monthly meeting date to accommodate state conferences and meetings that enhance his job.

Ken Stern, administrative officer, said the proposed budget reflects a 1 percent increase over the current budget.

"We tried our best to make it a real lean budget," he told the board.

He gave an overview of revenue sources, expenditures, personnel requests, and the department's outcomes and goals for the upcoming year.

Stern said his office continually looks at cost-cutting measures wherever possible, even in personnel, which comprises 77 percent of the budget.

"We haven't really been able to take care of our folks for the last few years," he said. "We don't know about this year but it won't be because we don't try."

Personnel requests total $88,406 -- reflecting $58,620 for merit increases and another $29,786 for two position reclassifications. Any raises or adjustments to pay scale and merit raises come from county dollars, Stern said.

The health department has had an 8 percent turnover this past year, he said, and there are currently several vacancies, including a health education specialist, social worker, nutritionist in the WIC program and two dental hygienists.

Stern also pointed out that the budget contains no capital requests this year.

"We're not asking for any big equipment items, any new vehicles," he said.

Precarious state funding and unknown revenue streams make preparing such a budget particularly challenging, Stern said.

The health department did get some extra state money this past year for some programs, he noted, but there is no guarantee that will be repeated.

The budget will be sent to the county commission for approval.

Dr. Kim Larson, chairwoman of the board, welcomed Health Director Davin Madden, whose first official day was April 9.

"We're really excited for him to be here," she said. "We're looking forward to wonderful things in the future and we're here to really move the mission and the vision of the Health Department ahead."

Madden, whose previous job was health director for Pamlico County, said he anticipates doing "some great things" alongside the board and staff of the health department.

"I have been in public health. July will be 14 years. I wouldn't trade this profession for anything."

State funding remains unpredictable, he noted, and legislators may not have the best understanding of the role public health plays in a community. Madden said one of his ultimate goals is to create a greater awareness of that, both locally and among the state leadership.

As health director, he said he has found it beneficial to take advantage of state association meetings that help him stay current and in turn better lead and educate staff. He presented the board with a short list of conferences and monthly health director meetings he hopes to continue attending.

Board members asked if travel and hotel accommodations might be involved. Madden said yes, in some cases.

Stern said the request is in line with associations former health director James Roosen had been affiliated, and travel expenses were appropriated in the budget for that purpose.

The board approved the meetings request, creating a potential conflict to the board's regular meetings on the third Wednesday of the month.

Madden proposed, and the board agreed, to change its meeting time to the fourth Wednesday of the month, still at 12:15 p.m., effective in May.