Public Health faces $2.6M deficit, preliminary 2024 budget includes staff cuts

If revenues don’t increase this year, Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County is anticipating a $2.6 million deficit for its 2024 budget that would require staff cuts and salary freezes.

“We’ve been operating at a deficit for the last several years, but we’re just at a point now where our reserves aren’t large enough to absorb that deficit, so we are working toward a more balanced budget moving forward,” Health Commissioner Jennifer Wentzel said.

Challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, increased costs under inflation, and funding that has remained the same are contributing factors to this deficit, administrators said. The department receives $16.9 million from the human services levy annually, according to the preliminary budget.

“Cost of doing business has affected everybody in our community,” Wentzel said. “We’re still operating at the same level of funding that we have been operating at for the last five years, so with costs increasing and the same level of funding through our levy allocation and through our grants and our fees and services, we have to make cuts or adjustments elsewhere, and staffing is a big portion of our budget.”

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The reduction in staff, if it takes place, could be a combination of not filling positions if an employee leaves or cutting positions. Up to 21 positions could be impacted, according to the preliminary budget. If the staff cuts do happen, it will take place in 2024.

“This is just the preliminary budget for (2024) and with it being March, there’s a lot that could happen between now and then. Any position that comes open, we’re taking a very hard look at it through our vacancy list and whether or not it’s something that we can hold open or fill.”

Public Health has a target number of employees that, if the preliminary budget holds true in 2024, is the number the department will need to go down to, Wentzel said. The target number of employees Public Health is looking at is 251, which is about 21 positions from where the department currently is. Prior to COVID, the department had approximately 287 employees at the end of 2019, plus some temporary employees due to the pandemic.

“As we move through the year, we’re looking at ways to reduce costs and expenses, and we’re looking at additional revenue streams, so that number could be different once we hit that calendar year (2024),” Wentzel said.

Salary freezes are also being planned for in the preliminary budget. Other projections in the preliminary budget include revenues at $37.5 million, with a loss of $788,971 from 2023. Expenses are projected at being $40.2 million, a reduction of $2.7 million from 2023.

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The Board of Health approved Public Health’s preliminary budget for 2024. Going forward, Public Health will bring a final budget plan before the board in December. Public Health officials said their intention is to get to a balanced budget by 2025.

“We’re going to continue to offer the same level of service to our community,” Wentzel said. “There’s a great need in our community, and we’re committed to filling in those services that are needed and offering those services.”

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