Health department budget is reduced

October 4, 2010
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When a fiscal year operating budget is reduced by 9 percent, it would normally call for a cut in services or personnel. But that isn’t the case this time for the Kent County Health Department.

The department began its 2011 fiscal year Oct. 1 with an operating budget about $2.5 million less than its 2010 spending plan of $27 million. This year’s budget of $24.56 million is 9.2 percent lower than last year’s.

Yet Deputy Administrative Health Officer Bill Anstey told HQ that the smaller budget won’t result in any service reductions because the 2010 budget contained revenue for two particular events. The first was a program that urged parents to get their children vaccinated, called Vaccinations for Children. The department distributed the vaccines for the program throughout the county last year so the value of the vaccines, about $6 million, had to be recorded in its books to meet accounting requirements.

“So that got reported on our account as a revenue-in, which was the value of the vaccine, and then as an expense-out because we distributed it to our community partners,” said Anstey.

This year, though, the health department isn’t serving as broad a VFC distributor, so the agency won’t have as large of a vaccine-value entry in its ledger. “What they did to make that more efficient is they worked with the vaccine companies and the distributors so now it’s shipped directly to a VFC provider and it bypasses the health department,” said Anstey.

“So because of that change, we don’t have to record it on our books, and that was a significant percentage of our $27 million budget last year,” he added.

For 2011, the health department has budgeted the VFC program at $2.2 million, and the vaccines will only be given to its six public clinics.

“So that differential, which is $3.8 million, is one of the reductions. But, again, it’s not a reduction because it’s being shifted to the doctors — the primary care people in our community — who have volunteered to be VFC providers. And we’ll do basically the same service that we do at our clinics for children that are eligible for the VFC program,” said Anstey.

The second program also had the health department distributing more vaccines, this time for the H1N1 flu. But because this year’s regular flu vaccine includes the H1N1 prevention formula, there isn’t a need to distribute the vaccine, which was new last year. The cost to market and dispense those vaccines also had to be added to the agency’s books. It turned out to be roughly $1.5 million that went in first as revenue last year and then out as an expense.

“The H1N1 threat was kind of a one-time thing and now it’s incorporated into the seasonal flu, so we had some one-time dollars that came in for that specific purpose that we’re not going to have this year. And that’s another item that’s not going to be on our budget,” said Anstey.

“In our 2010 budget, that would be compared against the 2011 budget submission, there is about $1.5 million less for the H1N1 campaign that we did and was a one-time thing. Now that is all rolled into seasonal,” he added. “So that, along with the VFC component, are the two largest amounts of budget reductions in our budget. But these really don’t impact the services that we deliver to the community.”

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