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Mayor wants to keep health services in city

November 1, 2012
Morning Journal News

SALEM - Mayor John Berlin said the city is trying to keep health services at the Salem City Health Department.

The mayor made the statement this week when asked if the city had considered going back with the Columbiana County general health district because of costs. The city health board recently cut the vital statistics registrar position to part-time as a means to save money due to an estimated deficit next year.

"We're fighting to keep this office open," he said. "We just feel the people of Salem are better served by having the health district here."

Berlin said they'll do everything necessary to keep the office located at the KSU City Center open and won't willingly consider consolidation.

"I believe local control of health issues is best administered by the local board," he said.

The city previously had its own health district and board years ago, but began contracting for services with the county in 1994. The county had continued offering the vital statistics program through an office in Salem, with limited nursing services in Salem for inoculations, with the rest of the services provided through the county's Lisbon office.

In 2008, then city Auditor Jim Armeni started questioning what services the city received. The city chose to go back on its own and was reconstituted as a local health district in 2009.

According to an Ohio Department of Health report on local health districts, 25 city departments combined or contracted with other departments from 1993 to 2012. Salem was the only city to go back on its own in the time period from 1994 to 2012. Out of the 125 local health departments in operation in the state now, 88 are county/general health districts.

Consolidation of local health districts has been a topic discussed by the Legislative Committee on Public Health Futures through the ODH. The committee issued its final report this week for recommendations for the governor to consider.

The city health district was told recently that unless the part-time hours planned for the new vital statistics registrar and deputy registrar were increased and included a three-hour overlap between the two positions, the program would be transferred to the county.

The board agreed to set the new hours based on what the ODH Office of Vital Statistics required.

A financial forecast prepared by city Auditor Betty Brothers predicted a shortfall of $20,002 next year for the city health department if operations stayed the same with no changes. Changing the registrar's position to part-time will save some money since the person won't have to be provided benefits.

The department is also working on a new cost methodology regarding food service fees which could affect income, depending on how it turns out. The district had previously been using the county's fee structure for food service, but last fall set new fees for this year based on the part-time city sanitarian's time devoted to the program. As a result, the fees took a drastic drop.

According to Brothers, the income from food service in 2010, the first full year the city operated the food service program, was $31,622. In 2011, the figure was $30,802. The number as of Monday for 2012 was $6,482, meaning a loss of nearly $25,000 to the budget.

The department budget depends on fees and a per capita total that the city must pay per citizen for health department services whether the city runs a department or not, she explained. Based on Ohio Revised Code, the per capita amount is $3 per citizen, for a total of $36,909 in Salem due to 2010 census figures which place the city's population at 12,303 people.

In 2008, the city paid the county $28,520 for services, based on the per capita amount and the 2000 census figures. In 2009 when the city opened up in June, the amount paid to the county of the per capita was $12,240, with the city having $12,800 from the per capita.

In 2010, the city health district spent $93,282 and had income of $117,681. In 2011, the income from the fees and per capita was $115,944 plus a carryover from 2010 of $14,936. Expenses totaled $106,640.

For 2012, the income was estimated at $89,674 with a carryover from 2011 of $23,091. The expenses were estimated at $88,341. The actual income to date as of Monday was $78,802, with actual expenses of $88,341, meaning the department is working from last year's carryover.

Berlin said when the city brought the services back to Salem, the idea was for the department to be self-sustaining.



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