22 health employees may lose jobs to cuts $518,000 needed to avert layoffs

October 11, 1992|By Phyllis Brill and Carol L. Bowers | Phyllis Brill and Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writers

Twenty-two Harford County Health Department employee will be laid off in 90 days unless the county government can cover more than half of the nearly $1 million in state aid the agency will lose this year.

Thomas M. Thomas, the county health officer, broke the news to his employees at a meeting Friday afternoon. He said the department would need an additional $518,000 from the county to avoid the layoffs.

The layoffs represent more than a quarter of the 82 jobs now in traditional health services, and would affect employees in nursing, sanitation and administrative jobs.

"Last year, we dodged a good-sized bullet from the state," he said, referring to the $400,000 in state cuts the Health Department was able to absorb. "But this year the governor sent us a Scud missile."

The state announced a reduction of $402,388 to Harford County in August and another $534,163 in a second round of cuts Sept. 18. The total -- $936,551 -- effectively reduces the Health Department's overall budget by about 25 percent. That budget, about $3.9 million at the beginning of the fiscal year, has now been reduced to about $2.9 million, Mr. Thomas said.

"We're more a county Health Department now than we've ever been," Mr. Thomas told his employees, noting that while the state once provided 60 percent of the department's funding, it now provides only about 30 percent.

The county already provides $1.7 million of the health budget. Mr. Thomas said the question now is how much more it can contribute.

"I think we will get it [the $518,000]," he said. "The county executive has indicated she doesn't want layoffs."

Mr. Thomas added that at County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's request, the Health Department provided a priority list of services and a " 'horror list' of what we can't do if we don't get enough money."

He said the department could absorb nearly half of the $1 million in cuts without resorting to layoffs.

Even so, the cuts probably will mean reduced services in clinics in Havre de Grace and Edgewood, with shorter hours and a smaller staff, said Mr. Thomas. The cuts also may mean reductions in family planning and maternity clinics, among other areas, he said.

"If we get the county dollars, all this will be off. But we have no choice but to plan for the worst right now," he told employees.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has told the 23 counties and Baltimore they will lose a total of $150 million in state aid.

Larry Klimovitz, director of administration for Harford County government, said Harford and other counties are now arguing over how the cuts will be divided.

How much Harford's share will be may not be known until December, he said, and that figure may affect how much more the county could offer the Health Department.

"The numbers change every day, but they seem to gravitate to around $6 million in cuts for Harford," said Mr. Klimovitz.

George Harrison, a county spokesman, said the state requires that employees be given 90 days' notice of layoffs.

Mr. Thomas said any layoffs would be the first in the department in his 11 years with the county.

"I've been in state and local government 30 years, and I've never seen it this bad," he said. "I don't honestly think they [layoffs] are going to happen, but we have to plan for it."

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