04/11/13 — Health Board discusses 2013-14 budget

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Health Board discusses 2013-14 budget

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 11, 2013 1:46 PM

In some respects, the proposed 2013-14 budget for the Wayne County Health Department could be considered a stripped-down version, a 1.4 percent reduction from the current operating budget -- reflecting grants that are running out and the uncertainty of state funding.

The $8.6 million budget also does not include requests for additional personnel and merit raises, said Ken Stern, administrative officer for the Health Department.

He gave the Board of Health an overview of the preliminary budget that will be forwarded to the county commissioners for approval.

There was not a quorum at the Wednesday meeting, but Stern said there was no problem moving forward with the budget.

The proposal reflects a $118,304 decrease from the current budget, Stern said. He cited a $250,000 grant that will not continue next year and some smaller grants also running out as part of the reason for the drop.

Reduction in state funding is another reason the department opted not to enhance some of its line items, he said. Broken down, 25 percent of the Health Department's revenue comes from the state, while another 27 percent is local funding.

Like most agencies, a large chunk of the budget goes to personnel. In this case, 77 percent is for salary and fringe benefits, while 21 percent, or $1.8 million, is for operations.

Stern said that any increase to salaries and benefits is dependent upon available funds, but pointed out that county retirement contributions for the upcoming year are expected to rise from 6.7 percent to 7.07 percent.

Among the most pressing needs for the future are assorted technology needs, estimated at $125,000, and a capital request for a replacement vehicle for the Environmental Health division.

Kevin Whitley, environmental health director, admitted that most vehicles in his fleet "probably need replacing," but his department has attempted to prolong extravagant purchases through maintenance efforts.

Even though personnel requests were not included in the fiscal budget proposal, Stern explained to the board what the $84,580 worth of needs would entail -- one administrative position reclassification, reflecting a $2,732 salary difference, and $81,848 in merit raises.

Board member Joe Daughtery, a county commissioner, asked why the personnel requests were not included in the budget being submitted for approval.

"They're a separate request," Stern replied. "If there's funding available, it's approved. That type of request comes from the county."

Stern added that there has been much discussion about giving merit raises to employees, especially in recent years when the economy stalled, and since the line item was not typically approved, it was simply easier to keep it out.

The proposal will nevertheless be submitted, he added.

"It's up to the county manager, but I strongly encourage it," he said.

Employee retention and recruitment are also among the department's ongoing goals, as officials keep an eye on staff turnover, which has ranged between 8 and 11 percent in recent years, Stern said. Currently, there are several openings in office personnel, and the department is actively recruiting for a new dentist, dental hygienist and a nutritionist in the WIC, or Women Infants and Children division.