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Washington County to pay money to former Health Department employees

July 31, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN — The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to pay upfront $537,372.65 in accrued unused sick time and vacation time for the Washington County Health Department employees who were laid off because the county cut funding for the school health-services program.

The county will pay the liability on condition of a memorandum of understanding with the local health department. That agreement will state that the county will reduce its contribution to the local health department by approximately $134,343 a year for four years, County Administrator Greg Murray said Tuesday evening after the commissioners held a meeting at the Funkstown Town Hall.

The local health department could avoid those future cuts if the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene comes up with supplemental funds to reimburse the commissioners, Murray said. The cuts to the local health department wouldn’t kick in until the 2013-14 fiscal year, so there is a year to find a solution, he said.

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Murray said he heard from County Health Officer Earl Stoner’s office that the state health department did not have such funds now to pay for the local liability.

County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham asked for the memorandum of understanding so there is a written document stating that the county will recoup its money one way or the other.

Murray said the liability will be paid with unbudgeted tax revenue the county received. Occasionally, tax funds come in late after appeals are settled through the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, he said.

Murray said the county can cover the local health department’s liability that way because it is a one-time expense being covered by one-time funding.

There are other things the county could have done with that late tax revenue, but will not be able to because of this, Callaham said.

While the county is not responsible for the local health department’s liability, it was the commissioners’ decision to cut funding for the school health-services program that created the liability predicament, Murray said.

In June, the commissioners cut $3.3 million for school health services to free up money for teacher pension costs the state was passing down to local jurisdictions.

As a result, Stoner issued layoff notices to more than 70 employees.

Washington County Public Schools officials were negotiating with Meritus Medical Center Inc. to provide school health services for the upcoming school year.

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