Budget cuts imposed by the county will eliminate two jobs in the Davis County Health Department and may hurt the environmental protection and health promotion programs, the department's board was told this week.
Department director Dr. Enrico Leopardi told the health board he had to cut $95,000 from his department's budget for 1989. To do that, two jobs were eliminated.Richard Harvey, head of the department's environmental health program, said the loss of an inspector in the hazardous waste and underground storage tank inspection area will hurt his program badly.
"We've gone far beyond cutting fat, we're deep into cutting muscle," Harvey told the board. "This will have a direct effect on protecting environmental health in Davis County. We feel we're approaching a crisis."
Nursing division director Mary Meredith said the cuts dashed her hopes of adding a new staff member to handle new programs such as cholesterol screening. New programs and increased demand on existing programs such as vaccinations are being handled by setting priorities and dividing new duties among the existing staff members, she said.
Gayle Stevenson, a county commissioner and health board member, explained the county is reacting to what it sees as a mandate from taxpayers to cut spending and hold the line on taxes, expressed this year in the tax initiatives.
To do that, and still spend $18 million to build a new jail and municipal complex, the rest of the budget has to be adjusted, Stevenson told the board. All county departments took cuts, ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, he said.
Stevenson said 33 county jobs are being cut or vacancies are not being filled, and only two of them are in the health department.
Board member Steve Romney challenged the assertion, saying the county is building a new jail at the expense of all its other departments.
Romney said the commission is using "smoke and mirrors" to juggle county tax money and "is putting the jail on a higher priority than county health." The health department has increased its dependence on charging fees for services in the past two to three years, Romney said, calling it "taxing through the back door with fees."
Under state law, the health department is funded by a separate property tax mill levy than the rest of the county departments. Tax money raised for the department is dedicated to that use and cannot be intermingled with the county's general fund.
Because of that independent funding, a separate health board of county residents governs the department and its operations, including budgeting.
But the county commission has the final word on budgets and mill levys, leading Romney to charge the health department is taking cuts so the county can build a new jail.
Stevenson said the commission's goal is to sell the $18 million in bonds and build the jail with as little impact to the taxpayer as possible. The county is also absorbing the loss of federal revenue sharing funds, Stevenson said.
"We're trying to keep the cost to the individual homeowner about the same as last year. We estimate the owner of a $70,000 house will see about a $19 increase," Stevenson said.