published Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Perdue orders more budget cuts


by Jessie Gable

North Georgia agency officials said Friday they are not surprised that Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has ordered additional budget cuts for health care programs, prisons and parks.

Logan Boss, public information officer at the North Georgia Public Health Department, said budget cuts in the last decade have left the Northwest Georgia health departments already operating at 80 percent efficiency.

“Right now, we are trying to deal with these budget cuts by not filling positions as they come open,” Mr. Boss said. “That’s typically due to people leaving at the county health department level or at the district level, where we serve as administrative arm for the county health departments, or from people who retire.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday that Gov. Perdue ordered 4 percent cuts that would reduce state spending by $25 million a month because some federal stimulus money appropriations are stalled in Congress.

Mr. Boss said public health departments have scaled programs for heart attack and stroke prevention and a mobile dental office that helped schoolchildren who do not have health insurance.

“This certainly impacts our ability to provide a level of services that we are charged with providing to the people of Northwest Georgia,” Mr. Boss said.

Amy Carroll, nurse manager at the Catoosa County Health Department, said cuts would affect staffing and cause longer wait times in clinics.

“We will have to look at all the services we provide in the community and focus more on the state-mandated ones,” Ms. Carroll said.

Those services include tuberculosis and socially transmitted disease testing as well as family planning, Ms. Carroll said.

Health care agencies are not the only ones affected by the cuts.

Bobby Wilson, park manager of Cloudland Canyon State Park on Lookout Mountain, said he’s proud of his staff for learning to adapt to the widespread underfunding.

Mr. Wilson said he did not know exactly where the cuts would come from, but “these days we’re prepared for anything.”

He also said state parks are dealing with a lack of funding by not filling vacant positions.

“It’s no secret that there have been significant budget cuts over the past two or three years,” Mr. Wilson said. “That just seems to be the way things are going right now.”

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