Three jobs cut from 2011 health programs

The Benton Franklin Health Board unanimously adopted a $9.3 million budget Wednesday that drops three jobs from the Maternal and Child Health programs in 2011, while adding a full-time administrator to run the district's day-to-day operations.

Sandy Owen, preventive health services director for the Benton Franklin Health District, said that probably would affect about 300 of the 1,800 families receiving services from the programs.

Maternal and Child Health includes programs for pregnant women, families at risk for child abuse and neglect, and families with special needs children, Owen said.

Some services include in-home visits with referrals from health care providers, but the district won't be able to continue those visits with the reduction in staffing, she said.

"We are losing services," Owen said.

Maternal and Child Health already is holding two-and-a-half jobs open. The three jobs dropped in the 2011 budget include two layoffs and one retirement for which no replacement will be hired.

The district has lost a total of 17 1/2 jobs in two years, said Dr. Larry Jecha, public health officer.

Jecha has worn two hats as health officer -- overseeing the district's medical functions as a licensed physician, and running day-to-day operations.

The health board -- made up of the Benton and Franklin county commissioners -- decided earlier this year to split the job and hire a full-time administrator to take over responsibility for operations as Jecha moves closer to retirement, although he has said he will stay on for the time being as a part-time health officer.

The administrator position was advertised at a salary range of $90,000 to $110,000. Two candidates for the job will be interviewed in December.

Jecha said the three positions were cut from Maternal and Child Health to pay for the administrator's salary and a clerical supervisor for the district.

The board adopted the budget with little discussion except for a thank you to the district's staff.

"This has been an ongoing piece of discussion and work -- tough decisions," said Bob Koch, a Franklin County commissioner and health board chairman. "We appreciate the staff work that went into this."

The budget anticipates about $9.3 million in revenues and $8.8 million in expenses, with $500,000 left in reserves. No fee increases for services provided by the district are planned for 2011.

Salaries and benefits make up $6.4 million of the budget, or almost 70 percent.

Jecha described the budget as "fluid," since money for some of the district's programs will be dependent on decisions made by the state Legislature as it attempts to bridge a $4.5 billion deficit when lawmakers return to Olympia in January.

State and federal grants account for $4 million in the district's 2011 budget.

The district also counts on about $1.1 million in state money to replace money lost by the passage of Initiative 695, which lowered car tab fees.

The district gets $369,000 from Benton County and $205,000 from Franklin County, according to the budget.

Various fees make up all but $10,500 of the remaining revenues. The $10,500 comes from expenditure refunds and canceled warrants or adjustments.