*This story has an update below.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Leaders at the Madison County Health Department are scrambling to figure out how to move forward with $250,000 gone from their budget this year.
The State Department of Local Government Finance just cut the Health Department's county-approved budget, saying "...projected revenues are insufficient to fund the adopted budget."
"This is something that’s never happened," said Steve Ford, the Health Department's Administrator. "It’s going to be a pretty big challenge."
Ford said he is trying to avoid layoffs, but they are possible. He also said the budget shortfall will likely impact their clinic which provides vaccinations and STD screenings. It could even delay health inspections.
"We’re going to do the best we can to maintain whatever we can. It may not be possible," said Ford. "There may be delays in some services. Our environmental division is now one person. There’s 450 square miles."
What makes this cut more difficult is the department's budget was already tight to begin with. According to the 2016 Trust for America's Health study, Indiana ranks near the bottom nationally when it comes to public health funding.
Ford wants to know why the state didn't just send the budget back to county leaders so they could choose where to make the cuts.
"If the county levy wasn't going to bring in enough revenues, why did they not send it back to the county and say you make the cuts?"
He's hoping the department will be able to find money elsewhere to get through the rest of the fiscal year.
"What we do at the health department is important. So to not do it is not serving the public," he said.
A spokeswoman for DLGF responded to Ford's concerns with this statement:
In completing its budget review, the Department of Local Government Finance’s typical approach is to maintain revenues going into the General Fund, as the General Fund has the most flexibility in terms of its uses. However, after its initial review, the Department provides a preliminary budget order (also known as a 1782 Notice) to each taxing unit. The 1782 Notice identifies the proposed budget, levies, and rates for each fund to be certified. The taxing unit then has 10 calendar days to review and respond to the 1782 Notice. During this time period, a taxing unit can modify the placement of levy and budget cuts from what the Department originally proposed. Modifications provided by the taxing unit would be included in the final budget order as certified by the Department.
The statement continues to read:
We are not able to provide comments on the reasons for the decreases. They may be due to the Department adjusting a budget during the review process to fund an adopted budget, a county that has chosen to decrease the health department budget during the budget adoption process, or revenues could be fluctuating.