Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

September 18, 2013

Health department could face $400,000 shortfall

Questions surround approved budget

By Leeann Akers - Editor
Journal-Times

Sept. 18, 2013 — No one expected to hear bad financial news at last week's board meeting of the Little Sandy District Health Department but board members left with more questions than answers.

Interim director Paula Thornberry reported that, based on the first two months of the fiscal year, the district is facing a $440,000 deficit for the current fiscal year ending next June 30.

According to financial projections presented to the board, expected revenue could be $769,000 less than the 2013-14 budget approved in June.

Lloyd Miller, former director, presented the board-blessed budget to the Fiscal Court in June and it was routinely approved. At that time, no mention was made of a potential shortfall.

“I made the budget based on allocations that Frankfort gave me,” Miller told the Journal-Times on Tuesday. “I don't know if anything has changed since then.”

Miller explained that the budget had been submitted to Frankfort in May and it was based on presumptive allocations.

The Journal-Times has learned that local health districts send revenue data to Frankfort and then receive computerized reports and projections to be used in calculating operating budgets.

Miller, who unexpectedly retired a year ahead of schedule in August, declined to comment further on the budget or his retirement.

The approved budget anticipated about $190,000 more in revenue than the 2012-13 budget.

With about 30 persons on the payroll, personnel costs are by far the largest expense category for the health department.

The approved budget anticipated $1.4 million in salaries and benefits. However, the projected cost presented last week was $55,469 more than expected.

Operating costs were approved at nearly $300,000 more than the 2012-13 fiscal year. However, even with projections coming in at $326,942 less than budgeted, the district would still face a $440,632 loss.

Carter County Judge-Executive Charles Wallace, a board member who heard the report on the possible revenue shortfall, said he is very concerned about what the situation could mean for the county.

“If they don't have the revenue coming in they will have to do something to cut costs,” Wallace said. “We don't want them to have to cut services in the county. Most public agencies are facing these same issues. They will have to make some cost-cutting measures in order to stay open.”

Although Thornberry declined to comment on the financial projections, she did indicate that an audit might be helpful under the circumstances.

Darren Sammons, legal counsel for the Kentucky Department for Local Government, said Tuesday that his agency has no oversight of local health department budgets.

That legal responsibility rests with the Kentucky Department of Public Health’s Division of Administration and Financial Management. However, no one at that agency was available for comment before Tuesday’s press deadline.

Neither were other board members of the health department.

The Little Sandy District serves Carter and Elliott counties with administrative offices in the Carter County Courthouse. Local health centers are located in Grayson, Olive Hill, and Sandy Hook.

Leeann Akers can be reached at lakers@journal-times.com or by telephone at 474-5101.