The Effingham County Tax and Fiance Committee voted to increase the 2016 tax levy around 2.75% at Thursday’s meeting. The $75,000 increase brings the total levy to $4,196,350. The additional money is being levied by request of the Health Department, who will likely be using the funds for additional personnel. The $75,000 will be added to their current county funding of $115,000.
“We felt as is the county health department has not had the support it’s needed the past few years,” Tax and Fiance Chairman Rob Arnold said. According to him, it’s about having a clear goal and direction for the department, which Director Jeff Workman has provided.
Rob Arnold on the tax increase.
Recently elected board member John Perry had a different take on increasing the Health Department’s budget. “I think that during tough times when we’re looking at trying to balance the budget, and not draw on our reserves, you have make tough choices,” Perry remarked. “During those times the county health department needs to provide the functions of the county health department. I just don’t think it’s a good time to be expanding their services as this point,” he continued.
John Perry on the tax increase.
One member of the public seemed to agree. Alan Shumaker suggested that in order to keep the budget balanced and not raise taxes, the health department should not receive their increase.
Board of Health President Carol Warfield spoke in favor of the budget increase, citing concerns that the already-gutted Health Department currently has trouble keeping up with its required serviced. “We are asking for pubic support as well as board support,” Warfield said. The Health Department is responsible for, among other duties, food and water inspections and providing immunizations for those who can’t afford them.
The tax levy will not be finalized until a full board vote which will take place on Monday’s 4:00 p.m. County Board Meeting.
Other members of the public also offered up suggestions to reduce the county’s budget. Adam Huston suggested that County Board members should not be on the county health insurance plan. Another resident, John Gartner suggested cuts to the dive rescue team, EMA, and the county’s contingency fund. He said the that EMA Director, who is a full-time employee, could be made into a part-time position and consolidated with the sheriff’s office.