A 25 percent cut in the state's contribution to the county Health Department's budget could mean layoffs for as many as 20 employees unless county government can make up the difference.
And that, said county health officer Thomas M. Thomas, "would touch the core of our services."
Thomas told county officials last week the state had cut $559,126from his $3.8 million budget.
Thomas said he believes that by freezing four vacant jobs, cutting expenditures and raising fees for restaurant and other inspections, he can cover $225,070 of the state cuts.
"But the other $334,056, there's no way I can get that out of my budget," said Thomas. "I'm not trying to panic anybody, but if for some reason I don't get any or all of that amount, we're looking at position layoffs for as many as 20 employees. And that's just today's bad news. In 29 years in the health care field, I've never seen cuts like these."
The county contributes about $1.6 million to the Health Department's budget. The remaining money comes from the state. With the cuts, the state's contribution to the Health Department's budget, normally about $2.3 million, will drop to about $1.6 million.
Thomas said Harford public health services also would suffer from reductions in direct state aid, such as cuts in mental health and addictions counseling services. He said the state has cut $132,647 for the counseling, alcohol and drug abuse services -- performed by the Mann House, a half-way house -- and for transportation to take mentally retarded adults to day programs.
If the Health Department resorts to layoffs, Thomas said, services that would be affected include:
* Child health services such as examinations and immunizations.
* Restaurant and other inspections.
* Landfill inspections.
* Water sampling and testing.
"You and I cannot let that happen," Thomas told County Council members Tuesday during his presentation on the effect of the state cuts.
Harford will lose more than $6.4 million instate money under the latest spending plan proposed Wednesday by thegovernor and the General Assembly.
On Thursday, Larry Klimovitz, director of administration, said County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann had not yet evaluated how much, if any, additional money the county would be able to contribute to the Health Department's budget.
"We're not going to write a check for $6.4 million," said Klimovitz. "We're going to look at the Health Department's needs, and Mr. Thomas is going to write a report on the effects of the shortfall." Thomas' proposed savings plan would be carried out as follows:
* Freeze threevacancies -- a clerk, telephone operator, and data-processing computer programmer.
* Freeze one vacant job in the mental health division.
* Pass up spending money on
new office equipment or replacements.
* Cut tuition and travel money for continuing education.
* Cut office supply and printing costs.
* Do without planned $20,000 to expand the department's computer system.
"I hope my department will be untouched if there are further cuts," said Thomas. "As itis, maybe the secretaries who will be filling in for the operator should start answering the phone, 'Harford County Health Department, we'd like to help you, can you spare a dime?' "
HOW STATE BUDGET CUTS AFFECT PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES
Cut... ... ... ... ... Services affected
$559,126... ... ... ...County health department general operating ... ... ... ... ... ... ...budget
..33,333... ... ... .. Direct aid for mental health and addictions ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...services
..65,800... ... ... ...Direct aid for Mann House, half-way house for .. .. ... ... ... ... . ..recovering alcoholics
..33,514.. ... ... ... Direct aid for developmental disabilities ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...(transportation costs to take mentally retarded ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...citizens to day services)
$691,773... ... ... ...TOTAL CUT