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Health Department faces budget shortfall

April 02, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

State-mandated pay raises and an increase in health insurance costs for employees has the Washington County Health Department facing a more than $560,000 deficit in the School Health Program for the next fiscal year, Health Officer William Christoffel said.

The department also needs an additional $257,137 to adequately fund other programs, including the ARC Mentally Retarded Day Care Program.

Without a substantial financial increase from the Washington County Commissioners, Christoffel said Thursday that the department probably would have to cut the budget to make up for the shortfalls, such as possibly not filling jobs once they become vacant.

Christoffel has asked the County Commissioners for an $818,338 increase for the fiscal year 2006 budget. The requested increase would make up the $561,201 shortfall for the School Health Program and the $257,137 needed for the other programs.

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He asked the commissioners to contribute a total of $4.56 million toward the Health Department's fiscal year 2006 budget, up from the $3.74 million it received from the county this fiscal year. The health department's total proposed budget for 2006 is $17.28 million.

Fiscal year 2006 begins on July 1.

"This request is an eye-opener," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said.

Wivell said Christoffel has done a good job with keeping expenses down in previous years, so he was a little shocked when he saw the request for the next fiscal year.

Commissioner John C. Munson said he wasn't sure yet whether the county would be able to fund the request because the county's operating budget isn't complete.

Munson also sits on the Health Advisory Committee.

"There's going to be some tough decisions made," Munson said.

Christoffel said the Health Department would like to increase the number of school nurses per school because of an increasing enrollment and an increase in the number of special-needs students being placed in regular schools.

The School Health Program is managed by the Health Department and funded through the commissioners. It has 16 registered nurses, three licensed practical nurses and 45 certified nursing assistants.

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