Health Dept. seeks levy

With costs increasing and no raise in revenue in almost 30 years, the Fulton County Health Department will ask voters in November to pass a 10-year, .5-mill replacement levy.

As one of two active Health Department levies, the requested levy would replace a 10-year, .5-mill renewal levy that has been on the books since 1986. A replacement levy would increase the department’s annual income from property taxes to an estimated $502,818, up from the longtime yearly estimate of $247,738.

Health Commissioner Kim Cupp said a five-year projection based on current numbers shows a definite need for the increase.

“Looking at our budget, and the changes that are occurring, we do see a need for the additional funds that a replacement levy would generate,” she said.

The Health Department’s annual revenue from the current renewal levy has not changed since it was approved almost 30 years ago.

Cupp said if voters turn down the proposed replacement levy the department “would have to take a good hard look at where we would have to reduce costs. We never want to take it for granted, but I think we’re extremely fortunate that the public supports us.”

The programs the levy funds are essential services that no other local agencies or organizations offer, Cupp said. They include tracking communicable diseases, performing school inspections, and investigating public nuisance reports, among others.

The funds are also used economically in collaborations with other help agencies and organizations pursuing similar goals. “So the money is used in a coordinated effort,” Cupp said.

She said the replacement levy is also crucial due to the state’s decision to switch next year to 100 percent reimbursement of grants. “You have to have a working amount of capital in order to function under that reimbursement,” Cupp said.

She also mentioned a Catch-22 situation a failed levy could cause: The Health Department must have funds available to pay professional grant application writers, without whom the department would have difficulty qualifying for available state grant money.

As a member of the Health Department’s Audit Committee, Fulton County Commissioner Paul Barnaby said the department has been fiscally responsible. “They are spending the money for what they say they are,” he said.

Barnaby said it’s important to stress health and safety in the community, and to ensure adequate money remains available to attain that goal. He said the Health Department “has many facets to cover in the community that people don’t realize.”

Cupp said she’s optimistic the community’s support for the department will remain.

“We’re serving our neighbors, our relatives our friends. So we try to deliver services that are needed,” she said.