Health department considering tax levy

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON/ THE BELMONT County Board of Health meets Monday at the health department. Clockwise, from left, are Irene Louda, Deputy Health Commissioner Rob Sproul, Health Commissioner Dr. George Cholak, Elizabeth Glick, James King and Dr. Renato DelaCruz.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Board of Health took the first step toward possibly putting a tax levy up for a vote during the November election.

During a regular meeting held Monday, board members Elizabeth Glick, James King, Irene Louda and Dr. Renato DelaCruz approved a motion to begin the process of asking the county commission to have the county auditor prepare a financial document for a levy.

Rob Sproul, deputy health commissioner, estimated the health department needs a 0.5 mill levy for five years. He said, however, the department wonát know how much money that would generate until the auditor does the math regarding the total valuation of the county taxes.

After the meeting, Sproul said the health department spends about $420,000 per year not including grant money. Of that, about $320,000 is given to the health department via villages and townships. They are required to do so.

âThey would get to keep that money if we go to a levy,ã he said.

Sproul said the health department has seen cuts in funding from the state level, in addition to new mandates from the state without additional funding.

For example, TB prevention funding was cut recently by $5,000, and Women Infants and Children funding was cut by $15,000.

Part of the levy money, he said, would allow the health department to hire a nurse practitioner. Hiring an NP would allow the department to provide more health services and charge a higher cost to patients, he said. They are not sure, however, of the going pay rate for such a position.

Sproul said the health departmentás staff has been reduced over the years because of cuts. Some positions now are required to handle two to three jobs each.

If they decide to move ahead with placing a levy on the November ballot, the board must vote to do so by July.

In other matters, Sproul said the building recently received a fire safety inspection from the Cumberland Trail Fire District and it had some violations. Exit signs were inoperative, extension cords were being used to operate two air conditioning units and candles and candle warmers are not to be used. The report noted the building itself is too small for its intended use.

âStorage is a major issue causing clutter and improper storage,ã the report states. âMaintenance will be working on a plan to remove some of the clutter and remove the storage under the steps.ã

Sproul said the health department building is owned and maintained by the county commission.

Meanwhile, Health Commissioner Dr. George Cholak said there was one birth in the county and 54 deaths during the month of May. Environmental Director Rich Lucas said there were 40 septic inspections, 89 food service inspections, one tattoo parlor inspection following a complaint, three pools/spa inspections and 16 nuisance complaint investigations during May. He received 400 phone calls and 416 emails regarding various matters last month, too.

Nursing Director Linda Mehl talked about the WIC monthly newsletter made by Linda Ball, WIC dietician.

The next board of health meeting is set for noon July 9.