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Opinion

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Jerry Budrick
06/05/2014 2:29 PM

Theodore F. Novelli, Chairman

Amador County Board of Supervisors

I felt that I needed to respond to some of the concerns raised by Lori Jagoda in her recent letter to the Ledger Dispatch with regard to the Health and Human Services Building, as there are certainly some valid criticisms in there, and some that are unfounded.

Let me say that I am extremely sad to see Dr. Hartmann leave as the County Health Officer. He has been a true asset to our Health Department, and he will be sorely missed. If he were to change his mind and decide to stay, I am sure that the board of supervisors would extend his contract and keep him here as long as he desires.

Contrary to the assertion made by Jagoda in her letter, the County does not pay all of the property taxes for the building or the land on Conductor Boulevard.The County does pay the increases in the taxes caused by inflation. In 2012/13, that amount was $6,223 for the entire building.

Jagoda rightly brings up the subject of rent at the HHS Building, and this is where I believe we agree. The rent is definitely high, but it is the same rent amount that the County agreed to back in 2006.

An inflator has been applied, according to contract, but that inflator has been low since inflation has been low. No one who saw the contract back in 2006 should be surprised by the amount that we are paying in rent.

The overarching problem is the fact that the money has stopped flowing from the State for Health Realignment. Between 2004/2005 and 2007/2008, the total Health Department budget went from $1.5M to $2.6M. If you take out the additional costs because of the rent increase, the total budget still went up 60 percent ($900,000). However, since 2007/2008 the funds coming into the Health Fund have dropped from $5.9M to $3.5M in 2011/2012. This is a decline of 41 percent. It was this trend that caused the Board to question the 37-percent raise that was being requested for Dr. Hartmann back in 2010, as that increase would be paid for out of the Health Realignment account. I am surprised that the cuts to the Public Health system have not been more dramatic than what has actually been experienced, and it is admirable that they have been able to keep things together as they have.

My point is simply that the bigger problem is the loss of funding from the State — the increased rent is not the entire problem. All of the cuts that Jagoda mentioned, with the exception of the most recent cuts this year, would still have occurred, even if the Health Department operated rent-free.

That being said, the rent at the HHS Building is still a problem, as it has been since 2007. However, identifying the problem and doing something productive about it are two very different things. Given that the various Realignment funds reimburse at 100 percent for rent, but significantly less if the County owned the building, it is much wiser to rent than to own. The lease expires in 13 years, and renegoti

if an extension were offered. If we were to default on the lease, it is possible that we would still be responsible for all of the remaining rent, which would then be paid by the General Fund rather than the various realignment funds, as is currently done.

I cannot speak for the other supervisors, but I do believe that building the HHS building to the grandiose specifications requested by the previous HHS director was a mistake. The new building is much larger and overdone than we need to properly serve Amador County, and it will continue to be a drain on resources until we can find a reasonable way to get away from that building. We do continue to look for alternatives, but workable options have not yet been found.

I understand Jagoda’s concern with regard to spending taxpayer money with very little return, and I am committed to work against wasteful spending. This is why I do not want to spend even more money trying to get out of that lease.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
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