Health district cuts have little effect on county budget
by Erin Dentmon
edentmon@cherokeetribune.com
February 07, 2013 12:00 AM | 1346 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODSTOCK — The North Georgia Health District slashed expenditures during the last fiscal year by $870,000, but Cherokee County’s total spending didn’t decrease much.

Stephen Tonya, financial manager for the health district, said at a Wednesday meeting of the Cherokee County Board of Health that Cherokee County reduced its expenditures by only $2,700 in the 2012 fiscal year.

But with employee health care costs jumping by $69,000 and retirements costs increasing by $19,000 during the fiscal year, Cherokee County still had to make cuts.

“That was offset by general operating reductions, so we did do quite well to reduce it by $2,700,” Tonya said.

One of the largest funding reductions district-wide came from the Babies Can’t Wait program. The health district lost $559,000 in funding for the program. Tonya said the state elected to pay service providers directly for services provided through Babies Can’t Wait.

The health district used $120,000 in reserve funds to balance last year’s budget, less than three-fourths of the budgeted $168,000.

The health district has been asked to reduce its budget again for 2013. This fiscal year’s budget is $12.8 million, an $800,000 decrease from the FY 2012 budget of $13.6 million.

The Cherokee County Health Department’s budget will remain at $2.7 million in 2013, the same as last year. Tonya noted that Cherokee County is the lead county in the health district. Cherokee County is also home to several district-wide programs.

Cherokee County Environmental Health inspected 442 facilities during the last quarter, Cherokee County Environmental Health Manager Curtis Barnhart said. Two restaurants received unsatisfactory scores and were later reinspected after staff members were instructed about food safety.

Board of Health member Pat Tanner said she has noticed some restaurants around the county posting their inspection reports in less conspicuous places as opposed to in an entryway or lobby.

“The rule is that a customer has to be able to get within two feet of it,” Barnhart said. Restaurants with drive-throughs should post reports in a place customers can see them before ordering, he added.

Inspectors must visit every food service establishment in the county at least twice per year. As inspections have become more detailed, Barnhart said inspections at large restaurants can take up to two or three hours.

“Our scores are in the high 80s on average,” he said.

An inspection program developed by North Georgia Health District Environmentalist Ray King is now being used as a model for other programs around the state, Barnhart said.

In Cherokee County, environmental health had four positive rabies cases during the last quarter, Barnhart said. Three of the confirmed cases involved raccoons; the fourth involved a stray cat.

Denise Bowman, nurse manager for the Cherokee County Health Department, said the vital records and Women, Infants and Children programs have seen recent growth.

“There’s incredible demand with the vital records,” she said. “The services are very time-consuming and specialized as well.”

A Cobb County WIC center recently closed, and many of that center’s clients chose to come to Cherokee County to receive WIC services.

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