It’s a familiar situation for the health department’s gradually shrinking staff.
They’ve gone about five years without an across-the-board pay hike, although employees have gotten pay raises when they’ve taken on additional responsibilities or obtained additional educational credentials, such as a master’s degree, said Tim Hollinger, Huron County’s health commissioner.
“It’s not in our budget” Hollinger said.
To give a pay increase, the health department would have to ask for a replacement or additional levy, he said.
“We’ve gone over 20 years with renewals on the levies” he said, noting Huron County isn’t a wealthy area.
The levy comes up every 10 years and it’s still a couple of years away, so there won’t be any immediate decision on whether to seek more money, he said.
Roland Tkach, Huron County’s auditor, said the health department is funded locally by three levies that generate an estimated total of $511,160 a year.
Two of those levies, a 0.3-mill and 0.2-mill, expire in 2016. The first time they could be put on the ballot for renewal or replacement would be November 2016, Tkach said.
If the health board chose to, however, it could file paperwork to ask voters for another levy, Tkach said, although to do that it would have to decide passage was likely, as there’s a cost to putting anything on the ballot.
“If you lose at the polls, you still have to pay the board of elections” he said.
Hollinger said the department also has trimmed personnel costs by reducing the number of people who work at the department.
He said when he took over as health commissioner 10 years ago, the department had a staff of 43 or 44 people. It now has 24.
Two more positions were cut in 2013. A clerk who made about $30,000 a year resigned and was not replaced, and two part-time positions were replaced with a lower-paying single part-time job.
In fact, the amount of money in the general fund spent on salaries is actually going down this year, from $927,320 in 2013 to a scheduled $887,066 this year, said Karen Boose, director of administrative services at the health department.
Hollinger said other personnel changes also cut spending. Two sanitarians in the environmental health department left and were replaced by two sanitarians in training, who earn less money.
“We’re very, very efficient in what we do for the taxpayer” he said.
As a morale-building step, the department launched a series of annual awards to recognize top employees.