LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Health at its Tuesday meeting approved two budgets for the upcoming fiscal year — one catered to the county health department’s actual needs, and the other to a bill passed by the general assembly that mandates the county’s level of funding be returned to its 2010-2011 level.
While the needs-based budget requires an increase in county appropriations of at least $400,000, the budget required by House Bill 438 requires more than double that amount. The mandate could mean an additional 6 cents added to the county’s property tax rate, and according to Scotland County Commissioner Bob Davis, who serves on the health board, is not only being fought across the state by the Association of County Commissioners but also by the county’s leaders on a more personal level.
“We’ve talked to our three legislators eyeball to eyeball,” he said, “and told them that we can not do this — we will not put the burden on the backs of our taxpayers.”
Scotland County, which has defunded its health department by about 50 percent since that year, is one of the counties most affected by the bill.
“… Those folks in Raleigh don’t know what’s best for us,” Davis said, adding that the health department has over the past few years increased its efficiency and lessened the amount needed from the county to operate.
The department’s revenues are estimated by fiscal management director Tim Martin to be $225,893 less than in this year’s budget, based on an estimate of Medicaid reimbursement Martin says was improperly budgeted this year and federal and state funds which have since been cut. The collected fees for services rendered, however, are estimated to be $26,036 higher than in this fiscal year.
The $473, 471 additional appropriations asked of the county in the needs-based budget, compiled “from scratch” by Martin and staff, include the reduction in revenues, as well as the cost of implementing an electronic medical records system at $137,500; a new door entry and alarm system, which will help the building meet fire code requirements, at $16,500; and a projected 9 percent increase in health insurance at $29,578. The budget also calls for the potential expense of the hiring for six months a physician and nurse to service a maternal health clinic, also approved at Tuesday’s meeting.
The $842,471 in additional county appropriations for the budget required by House Bill 438 includes the reduction in revenues; the addition of a physician and nurse at a combined cost of $140,000; a grant writer at $53,000; a registration clerk at $38,000; upgrades to computer equipment at $25,500; new office furniture at $25,000; advertising and marketing at $30,000 and new exam room equipment at $5,000.
Abbi Overfelt can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 12. Follow her on Twitter @aoinscotco.