Health dept. budget appears balanced

With the year more than half over, the city health department’s finances appear headed for a positive finish, barring any unforeseen or out-of-the-ordinary expenses, based on recent budget figures.

“Right now, they’re holding their own,” city Auditor Betty Brothers said this week.

Coming into 2013, the financial picture was a little hazy, with the auditor projecting a deficit in a report she presented to Mayor John Berlin, who serves as chairman of the city health board.

Cuts were made in an effort to reduce costs to keep the department running without additional general fund money beyond the mandated per capita payment.

By law, the city must pay $3 per resident from the general fund toward health department operations, whether the city is providing the services or not, with the per capita payment totaling $36,909 or $3 for each of the 12,303 people reflected in the last census.

The majority of the department’s income is from birth and death certificate receipts and food service license receipts. The number of birth and death certificates had decreased from 2011 to 2012 and food service license receipts took a nosedive in 2012 after fees were reduced based on a new cost methodology.

For 2013, the food service license fees increased but still remain less than what the Columbiana County General Health District charges. The cost of birth and death certificates were increased by 50 cents each, from $26.50 to $27, and the full-time vital statistics registrar position was reduced to part-time to reduce costs. With no fringe benefits to pay, the costs were expected to come down, even with the hiring of another part-timer to serve as vital statistics clerk.

“The changes we made were positive and they appeared to work,” Brothers said.

As of July 26, the city health district had received 90 percent of its budgeted revenue amount, with $85,741 out of the estimated $94,952 received, along with a $1,200 carryover from 2012. Most food licensing operating permit money is received in the spring as restaurants and food service operations renew their licenses. Brothers also said the department received some unexpected revenue in the form of $1,496 from a workers’ compensation rebate and an $900 more in state money than what was budgeted. There was also an additional $356 reimbursement from insurance for a temporary nurse.

As for expenses, Brothers said the department is right on target at this point, with nearly 58 percent recorded and five months to go. Expenses stand at $54,518 of the expected $94,952 for the year.

In the big income areas, the department had received $11,193 in birth certificate receipts out of the $18,000 expected in the budget and $11,665 out of the $16,000 expected from death certificate receipts. Food service licenses are about even, with $17,333 out of the $17,750 expected.

Brothers said the city’s goal has been to keep the health department in Salem. She’s not expecting much of a carryover from this year going into next year and wasn’t sure what to expect for next year at this point.

“Next year we’ll just have to see what happens,” she said.