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Finance committee, health board reach compromise on home care budget
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During a joint meeting between the Lafayette County Finance Committee and the Lafayette County Board of Health held on Tuesday, Oct. 21, the two committees were able to reach a compromise that will enable the Lafayette County Health Department to keep the home care program going.
    As a result of the meeting it was decided that the Lafayette County Health Department would cut one full-time position, and the finance committee would find $60,000 elsewhere in the budget to allocate to the health department for the purpose of keeping the home care department.
    The health department had originally asked for a total budget levy request of $523,188 with $200,617 of that allocated to home care. The finance committee then requested a $10,000 decrease in the total health department budget, which was complied with by health department director Sue Matye and assistant director/home care coordinator Rebecca Steffes, who then presented their edited budget to the finance committee once again.
    In the meantime the finance committee noted that the overall health department levy request was greater than that of Lafayette Manor and began some research regarding the size of the Lafayette County Health Department levy in relation to other Wisconsin counties.
    After looking into this, it was discovered that most counties in Wisconsin have home care services provided by private health care providers and that Grant County’s home care does not require levy support at all.
    It was then pointed out by Lafayette County Health Department officials, that Grant County does not have certain costs, such as utilities, insurance or building expenses (which were a total cost of $5,141 for Lafayette County Health Department in 2013, according to Lafayette County finance director Nicola Maurer), and that Grant County’s home care is partially subsidized by their local hospital. Grant County also does not provide personal care services, which Lafayette County does.
     The finance committee then decided to request a health department budget that did not include the home care portion at all, taking $200,000 total out of the health department budget.
    During the Oct. 14 finance committee meeting, several other area home care departments were invited to speak on what they could provide to Lafayette County if the county’s home care program were to cease. During this meeting, Matye and Steffes also presented outlines and plans for improvement within the program during the next year.
    The health department also submitted yet another revised budget, requesting a total levy funding of $82,759 for home care, which also included the decreasing of the 10 full time staff to 36 hours a week. The finance committee declined to accept this re-revised budget.
    However, after that decision, a joint finance committee and board of health meeting was called to reconsider the subject.
    At the beginning of the meeting, county board chair Jack Sauer suggested giving the health department budget $60,000 (which would be taken from other departments’ budgets) and asking them to cut a full time position, as well as trying to cut back on services offered.
    “For years the health department has tried to be everything to everybody, and we just can’t afford do that anymore,” said Sauer.
    “I was encouraged when I heard that Jack Sauer had called a joint board of health and finance committee meeting to re-evaluate the budget for the health department,” said Matye. “It’s not easy for any of our elected officials to make the hard decisions that need to be made. I feel that Jack actually listened to what we presented at the last finance committee meeting and also heard the message from the other home care agencies that were present.”
    The finance committee needed to find money elsewhere in the budget in order to come up with the $60,000 for home care. As a result, the levy funding to two departments will be decreased: taking $10,000 from Lafayette Manor and $20,000 from the Lafayette County Highway Department.
    A total of $20,000 will also be taken from the county’s sales tax reserve, and the transfer fund the county receives throughout the year from Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County was increased by $10,000.
    Matye noted that she is grateful for the $60,000 for the home care program, but is concerned because it comes at the cost of those other departments’ budgets.
    “I would like to see some strategic planning for the county as a whole as we move forward,” she added.
    Mayte explained that she intends to work hard to maintain the integrity of all the programs at the health department. “We have received so many kind words from people in Lafayette County who really value our work. That’s what keeps us going and that will help us succeed,” explained Matye.
    Mayte said that she will be looking into things such as establishing an auxiliary for fundraising and is open to any and all suggestions. She also noted that it will be difficult cutting the full-time position.
    “We are a close knit group at the health department. Even though we all have our specialties we do work as a unit,” said Matye. “I wish we could have implemented the change to 36 hours from all of our full time staff in order to save a position, but it wasn’t the direction I was given in the end. The board of health will have to assist me with this.”