The Putnam County Board of Health is looking for outside help in figuring out the extent of the county health department’s financial dilemma.
“We’re at this point not sure exactly how serious the financial problems are so we’ve asked the state to come in and do an audit so we’ll know exactly where we stand,” said Putnam County Commissioner and board of health member Joe Haynes.
Haynes, before board members went into executive session on the topic Tuesday night, said they first need to figure out where they are before moving forward.
“We are trying to see who we owe, how much we owe and then work out how we get these things paid,” said Haynes.
According to a Charleston Gazette article, part of the reason the health department has found itself in this position is because it spent more than $100,000 on legal fees in losing an employee grievance fight.
When asked about the grievance, Haynes declined comment but mentioned that board members were being updated on legal bills.
“There have been some issues with some legal bills that were much more than any of us on the board thought they were, and so that’s part of our financial problems,” he said.
Haynes categorized most of the current struggles as a cash-flow problem.
“Health departments get multiple sources of funding. They get county, they get state and they get federal dollars,” said Haynes. “They don’t all come in at the same time.”
To stay afloat in the meantime, the board has asked both the county and the state for help through emergency funds.
In February, the board applied for about $186,000 from the local board of health emergency fund through the state Department of Health and Human Resources. In addition, the Putnam County Commission gave the department a $30,000 loan.
Haynes said the board is also looking into reducing some expenses.
“What we want to look at now is, what as a health department do we need to provide for the community and what things have we been offering that weren’t really necessary,” he said.
Despite the tall task ahead, Haynes said he believes the crisis is temporary: “I think we’re all fairly optimistic that this is something within a matter a months we’re going to have everything worked out.”