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Health department expects loss in revenue

POSTED: May 2, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Robin Michener Nathan/The Times

Clerk of Court Dwight Wood, foreground, discusses his budget with county officials, left to right, Jeremy Perry, Jim Shuler and Phil Sutton on Monday morning.

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A doctor from the Hall County Health Department divulged a staggering statistic to county officials Monday — the department is estimating a $866,208 loss in revenue this year.

During the fourth round of county budget hearings, Dr. David Westfall, District 2 public health director, said the health department is slated to receive significantly less revenues from Medicaid payments since the state adopted a managed health care form of Medicaid, similar to HMOs, in 2006.

To continue the current level of services provided for fiscal year 2009, Westfall said the department needs $1,181,223 from county coffers, which is nearly double what it received for this year’s budget.

He said if the county is unable to recoup the lost revenue in the upcoming year’s budget, then the department may have to cut up to one-fifth of its staff, which translates to fewer services and longer delays.

"We’d like to continue providing the same level of services, but, financially, that may not be possible," Westfall said.

The maternal health clinic is one of the department’s largest programs, and services nearly 600 obstetric patients each month. Westfall said women’s health and family planning is another important clinic in the department that could be hurt by budget cuts.

The family planning clinic serves nearly 4,000 patients per year by helping women to avoid unwanted pregnancies, Westfall said. It also helps to lower the county’s teen pregnancy rate.

Health Department

  • How it gets money: Hall County’s general fund
  • What it wants: The department is asking for $1,181,223. That’s $574,971 more than it received for this year’s budget.
  • Why it’s needed: To continue providing the same services despite the department’s expected loss in revenue

Magistrate Court

  • How it gets money: Fines, fees and supplemented by Hall County’s general fund
  • What it wants: The court wants $1,121,714. That’s $55,653 more than it received for this year’s budget.
  • Why it’s needed: With the 287(g) program — which allows local authorities to begin deportation proceedings — now in place, the court anticipates more hearings and says it needs more translators.

Clerk of Court

  • How it gets money: Fines, fees and forfeitures, supplemented by Hall County’s general fund
  • What it wants: The department is asking for $2,541,748. That’s $75,365 more than it received for this year’s budget.
  • Why it’s needed: Although real estate filings are down, the clerk said fines, forfeitures and fees are up, and so is the paperwork. The department is asking to hire two new deputy clerks to process the influx of documents.

Elections

  • How it gets money: Hall County’s general fund
  • What it wants: Elections officials are asking for $763,677. That’s $226,932 more than it received for this year’s budget.
  • Why it’s needed: It’s a presidential election year, and the elections department is asking for funds to purchase more equipment to expedite the voting process. The growing number of registered voters in the county has also prompted the elections official to request another clerk be hired.

Tax Commissioner

  • How it gets money: Fees for collecting taxes from different municipalities and Hall County’s general fund
  • What it wants: The commissioner is asking for $1,866,201. That’s $146,413 more than it received for this year’s budget.
  • Why it’s needed: The commissioner said he mailed 84,000 tax bills this year, and with the price of postage expected to increase to 42 cents, he needs $31,627 more this year to pay for the departments’ various postage. He said the expanded South Hall office also requires more funding to operate.


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