Allegany County Health Department Struggles to Make Ends Meet

In its budget request to the Allegany County Commissioners for fiscal 2015, the county health department has requested almost $1.5 million to help cover increasing program costs.  From the Cumberland Times-News article:

The county request does not reflect the bulk of the department’s budget, which is made up of federal and state grants, adding up to more than $16 million. The department has 212 state employees and 102 “special payments” employees. Those employees are contractual personnel who do not receive state benefits, said Brenda Caldwell, public information coordinator for the department. The number of merit positions has been reduced by eight over the past two years, and 11 special payments employees were brought on to save costs.

State-mandated salary and insurance cost increases haven’t been fully backed by state funding, which has caused further budget problems, Raver said. For instance, in January 2015, all contractual employees who work more than 30 hours a week will be offered health insurance. Raver said that will cost the department an estimated $22,000. Raver said the state policies and funding for insurance and costs aren’t final, but the department will likely absorb quite a few costs.

This situation highlights some of the long-standing funding issues faced by county  health departments across the state. Whereas, the State funding through the Core Funding Formula provides for inflationary adjustments, COLA adjustments and other compensation related adjustments are not mandated through the formula.   This has resulted in local governments covering a greater proportion of increases in personnel costs as adjustments have been made to State employee salaries and benefits. Grant funded positions add to the complexity as grant funding does not increase each year for COLA and other compensation related adjustments, but employees expect to be treated equitably, resulting in increased employee related costs.

A previous blog series on Conduit Street details the recent funding struggles of local health departments and offers recommendations to address them.