Wednesday, November 27, 2013
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Logan County Board members join Board of Health in reviewing precarious financial condition

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[November 27, 2013]  Mark Hilliard, administrator of the Logan County Department of Public Health, opened a special meeting of the Board of Health on Tuesday evening by saying: "With a loss of roughly $400,000 the year before last, and this current fiscal year losing a sizable amount as well, it was a challenge to create a balanced budget for FY 2014."

The Logan County Board's liaison, Dr. David Hepler, and several other county board members — Jan Schumacher, Andy Anderson and Kevin Bateman — were also in attendance to review with the Board of Health the health department's financial condition.

The intended purpose of the specially called meeting was to amend the recently passed 2014 budget to allow that the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer program would be kept running. The state wanted the county to keep that program going and agreed to provide an additional $42,000 to keep it going through June next year.

It had been a difficult decision during the budget process, but it was ultimately decided that the newly established dental clinic would be kept open this year, as well.

About a dozen guests were also present, including health department workers from the IBCC program, dental clinic employees and a union representative from AFSCME.

The review began with a chart of the past 10 years with three lines. The top line showed the end-of-year general fund balance in comparison with the tax levy the department has received, which was dropped to $1 in 2005, but otherwise runs just under $400,000 per year: $366,854 for the county health department for 2014. The chart also showed the reimbursements to the county as just over $400,000 now, which is higher than the levy received.

Hilliard added more definition that emphasized the importance of the declining fund balance, which at the end of this fiscal year is coming in at a 10-year low of $670,000. The department's monthly payroll is $60,000.

The health department's programs are primarily supported through grant funding. Hilliard explained some of the interplay between grant funding, payroll and fund balance. Some grants do not fully fund a program; others may not allow for certain payroll costs, or they may require some sort of matching amount; and most grant funding is released in annual or six-month increments. Additionally, the state has a tendency to get behind in its payments.

Given all the factors and the decline of the reserves, Hilliard said that some serious decisions would need to be made soon.

Board president Mike Rohrer supported Hilliard's statements.

"We're losing money every year," Rohrer said. "How long can we afford to lose money is anybody's guess. But I'd venture to say, revenues are not going to increase; expenses are. We already crossed that 'Mendoza Line' where we're in the negative."

With this year's end-of-year balance at $669,806 and next year projected at $545,929, Rohrer agreed that "some tough decisions have to be made."

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Primary reasons for the rapidly decreasing fund balance were discussed at different points in the meeting.

One of the greater influences for the department has been a significant drop in revenues from the Home Health Care program, which once brought in $1 million and now is under $500,000 a year in revenues. The decline in the program is related to changes passed down from the state, such as who qualifies for care and patients are discharged sooner.

Also, the department’s operational expenses have increased. Beginning in 2009, the county started handing more of the employment expenses to the department, and some of those continue to rise, the biggest cost being IMRF, budgeted at more than $150,000 in fiscal 2014, along with unemployment, FICA, property tax and payroll processing.

The amendment to add $242,174 to the 2014 budget for the continued running of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer program passed unanimously.

On a brighter note, "grant-funded programs currently in progress are pretty steady, solid now," Hilliard said.

With the meeting coming to a close and board members being asked if they had any questions that the health board might answer, Kevin Bateman hemmed and hawed, and then said he just had to ask what the tanning and body art grants were about, which brought a chuckle from everyone.

Most grant titles indicate the type of service that would be provided. He was told that those grants are to inspect local facilities.


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