published Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Bradley County cuts health department funds

Cleveland resident Joyce Headrick, left, recieves a flu shot from Jennifer Woodrown at the Bradley County Health Department in this file photo.
Cleveland resident Joyce Headrick, left, recieves a flu shot from Jennifer Woodrown at the Bradley County Health Department in this file photo.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County's proposed $33.7 million budget for 2014-15 has seen only tweaks so far, but it has generated much discussion among commissioners about possible cuts to departmental travel expenses.

On Monday, the County Commission voted 13-0 to cut the budget of the Bradley County Health Department by $5,000, which will eliminate a part-time position.

The cut, proposed by Commissioner Ed Elkins, will come from the department's requested $67,470 for paraprofessionals and reduce some efficiency in addressing off-site community needs, health department Director Eloise Waters said.

Home visits to sick and elderly clients as well as health screenings for juvenile offenders at county detention facilities may be affected, she said.

The alternative to making juvenile detention visits is for incarcerated youths to be brought to the health department building in handcuffs and leg restraints.

"The state Medicaid/TennCare department has expressed great pleasure that we're going [to juvenile detention] because we're doing all those things there and making it easier than having them brought over and go through the embarrassment," Waters said.

The reduction was called for because it appeared the health department's budget proposals had continued to incorporate a $6,000 boost that originated as an amendment in the 2012-13 budget year, Elkins said. That amendment was related to juvenile detention visits, he said.

In other business, Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones recommended the commission consider a policy that would limit coverage of travel expenses to required personnel, citing concerns with the election administration office.

"Why are we approving a budget where she [Elections Administrator Fran Green] brings extra people to those required, uh, committees or whatever that they have?" Peak-Jones asked. "Those required meetings that they have -- the only required person to go is the administrator."

Green said Tuesday that while the state coordinator of elections requires only the attendance of election administrators, "I believe the participation of office staff and commissioners is for the betterment of our county, our voters and our candidates."

The Bradley County Election Commission travel budget is $8,000 in the 2014-15 budget proposal, reflecting no increase over the current budget year.

"To single out one department at this point in the budget cycle might be a bit counterproductive," said Commissioner J. Adam Lowe, who serves as vice chairman of the County Commission. "If we're really going to look at saving money, if we're going to look at the problem, let's look at the problem and not the department or the personality."

Bradley County Commission Chairman Louie Alford recommended Peak-Jones bring the issue up for more discussion at the County Commission's June 23 meeting.

Highlights of Bradley County's proposed budget for 2014-15 include a 2 percent salary increase for full-time employees, a 1.6 percent increase in revenues and expenditures and no property tax hike.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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