Committee’s action looks to avert drastic cuts at Health Department

By on July 19, 2009

GENEVA—The Kane County Board’s Executive Committee, acting on the recommendation of the Kane County Board of Health, voted to move a resolution to the full County Board that would extend a $500,000 line of credit to the Kane County Health Department to maintain services and prevent imminent layoffs.

The credit line, which comes from the Board’s Riverboat Fund, will be secured by money that the state owes the department. These receivables, nearly half of which are more than 90 days old, total $962,000.

The full County Board will discussed the matter at its July 14 meeting.

“This action will allow us to continue full-service operations without exhausting our cash balance,” Health Department Executive Director Paul Kuehnert said. “However, we are by no means of out the woods. The Legislature still needs to return to Springfield and adopt a budget that is fair to all Illinois residents. Unfortunately, we are not expecting a quick remedy to Springfield’s problems.”

The lack of a fiscal year 2010 state budget had forced the Kane County Health Department to develop emergency revisions to its own budget that included issuing layoff notices to 58 employees. The Executive Committee’s vote delays that emergency action.

Unless the Illinois General Assembly approves a budget by early August, the Health Department will have to follow-through on its lay-off plan. And any budget that is passed by Springfield that does not fully restore public health funding will likely result in service cuts and layoffs.

“Without an adopted state budget, the Health Department on its own cannot afford to provide the public with many services it expects but that are funded by state grants,” Kuehnert said. “To be blunt, such cuts may put the health of our residents at risk.”

Kuehnert noted that the Health Department’s 2009 budget totals $10 million, with state grants totaling $4.35 million, or 43.5 percent. Local property tax revenue makes up about $2 million, or 20 percent of the budget. Fees collected for inspection and other services combine to make up the remainder of the budget.

Last fall, facing cuts in state grants, decreased local tax revenue and a decline in licensing and inspection fees due to the economy, the Health Department was forced to cut 25 full- and part-time staff.

“The action we took last year was drastic, but showed that we are fiscally responsible and have been good stewards of the public’s money,” Kuehnert said. “The level of cuts to public health still being discussed by the governor and some state legislators—up to 30 percent—will only seriously reduce our ability to provide these important services,” Kuehnert said.