The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has introduced a bill intended to set into law practices which are already common for a number of local health departments. The bill, SB 104, authorizes local health departments to retain collections received from fees, including any unspent balance at the end of the fiscal year. The bill, which exempts license and birth certificate fees, also allows local health departments to waive charges for services provided in the best interest of public health.
Due to reductions in State funding, local health departments are increasingly dependent on revenue generated from fee-for-service collections to support their operational costs. While collection funds remaining at the end of the fiscal year typically revert back to the State General Fund, in some jurisdictions local ordinances and routine fiscal practices allow the local health departments to collect and retain these fees. In those jurisdictions the retained fees help to maintain a continuous funding stream to cover the cost of providing services to the public. However, State statute does not specify this authority leaving the local health departments ability to retain funds vulnerable. This bill would protect the retainment process that is common place in many jurisdictions and would allow flexibility to those jurisdictions that do not retain these fees to keep their procedures and redistribution discretion in place.