By Nancy Schaar
Carroll County Board of Health officials met with the General Health District Advisory Council, comprised of township trustees, president of county commissioners and mayors of the seven villages in the county.
About 60 people were in attendance including the Board of Health members and health department officials. They are required to meet at least once a year.
Dave Seck, newly-elected Harrison Twp. trustee, was named chairman and Jeff Hawk was chosen as secretary for the advisory council.
There was only one nomination for an open seat on the Board of Health. Sean Speedy was unanimously selected to fill the position. The seat was held the past five years by Susan Haas.
Later during the meeting, Haas left and Speedy rose and addressed his remarks to the members of the Health Board.
“I feel bad Susan was not publicly thanked. She’s left. She served five years on the board. I’m feeling bad about that,” said Speedy. No response came from the Health Board and Health Commissioner Leann Cline continued with her presentation of finance sheets from her annual report.
The bulk of the two-hour meeting was filled with comments and explanations from the new fiscal officer for the health department, Hether Hawk.
Cline turned the 2019 proposed budget portion of the meeting to Hawk.
“Basically all I can tell you is that I have used figures that I have compiled from what I anticipated from their corrected 2018 budget,” said Hawk.
“This is why I have included the disclaimer on there. I do not have verification that anything that I have on that list, unfortunately, is accurate to the budget we are currently operating in. I foresee a lot of recalculation. I foresee a lot of changes. I foresee a lot of different accounting policies that are going to be implemented internally in our office to allow me to better break down individually and into more detail where the dollars come and goe. Not that the money isn’t there or anything. Just that right now I’m looking at a big salad and trying to pick out pieces that I can find in there. I can’t tell you anything honestly about this budget and I’m not going to pretend that I do. Not going to pretend that I can verify or answer any questions about where this comes from. I am in the process of tearing out every line item, every account, every expense, every check, every deposit received by the health department in the last year and I am very confident that in the next year I will be able to have a very accurate picture of where we need to be, what budget cuts I need to make in the office to make sure that we make the bottom line of the 2018 carry over better than this year and I will be able to answer any questions any of you have regarding the 2019 proposed budget for expenses,” stated Hawk.
Speedy asked Hawk if all 117 departments in Ohio have their own independent account systems or if there was a boiler plate the state has modified they can work within.
“I honestly can’t answer that. In the past I know where I worked for the auditor up in Stark County and they have their own individual. I personally don’t know what individual departments have or operate from,” continued Hawk.
Speedy again asked if the 117 entities in Ohio have the same issues but the question stopped as Hawk interrupted Speedy. Cline then stated they all have different systems internally.
“I’m not going to stand up here and pretend it’s something that it’s not. I have a lot of work to do. I would very much like to further our relationship and work more closely with the departments in the county such as Lynn (Fairclough, county auditor) and her staff who have been very helpful and allowed me to hit the ground and be able to get my footing. Not here to make friends. I’m here to get your department straightened out so hopefully one day you can pick up the newspaper and not read about how God awful Carroll County health department is. That’s my goal,” continued Hawk.
A woman questioned Hawk stating, “In the townships, we’re responsible for every cent that comes in.” Hawk interjected she agreed. The woman continued to say she doesn’t understand why the county health board is not responsible.
Hawk replied that she wasn’t saying they weren’t responsible. She was saying that what they have right now needs a lot of polishing and needs a lot of clean up. She said the money is all there, it just happens to be not so pretty at the moment.
“We had a couple of years in the past where the expenses exceeded the receipts. It looks like expenses again are going to exceed receipts,” said Wirkner.
The 2017 general finance report showed that there was a total of $1,139,750 in revenue and a total of $1,168,615 in expenses.
“I once again will not comment or verify, confirm or deny any amounts that are on here because I have only ran them from what I was given and the time frame that I was given. I have not yet been able to sit down and break down exactly where they are.”
“What that tells me is we can have no confidence in the figures,” stated Wirkner.
“What I’m telling you is that you can come to the office at any point in time and I will be glad to break it down for you. At the beginning of 2018 when I walked in there with two weeks notice with what I had to do I could not go through the budget with all the state deadlines and get everything to everybody within the time frame I was given. I apologize, but due to the time frame I prioritized and my priorities involved getting that grant funding secure so we knew that grant money was going to come in,” stated Hawk.
One of the trustees suggested Hawk didn’t have a real budget, at which point Hawk interrupted and said she apologized.
A man from the audience questioned where do we go from here?
Hawk was questioned if she had a time frame in mind, and she exclaimed, “You’re kidding right?”
“I would like to have it done sooner than later. Obviously you can see where it starts to train wreck,” said Hawk.
Township Trustee Brian McIntire questioned where the $400,000 tab came from. McIntire was referring to the hidden tab Cline told commissioners was found literally hours away from the deadline for her to present a balanced budget to the county last December.
“During the transition to fiscal oversight we were working with the spread sheets and it was mis-communicated to myself and to our new CPA firm. I assumed information was relayed to our consultant, Adam (Litke) and, with that being said, we were scrambling last minute to get things done and, with that being said, it was cut, cut, cut and we started calling attorneys to see what all we could do to cut the $400,000 and in the midst of all that we discovered there was a tab that didn’t calculate all the grants. It was misconstrued to the public that we had a hidden tab. No, it was a spread sheet we were working on. The formulas didn’t calculate from that tab to the overall tab that we were using to balance the budget. I apologize for that. Whatever confusion that caused, I will take the hit for that because I was part of the calculations. I was a one-man ship trying to do a dozen different things,” said Cline.
Mark Walters asked if a budget was presented to commissioners or if there was a temporary budget to approve.
“They submitted a 2018 budget. They are going to have to make appropriation amendments to that when she (Hawk) figures out what those will be,” stated Fairclough.
“Which is why I can’t get you the new budget. It involves working with her and her staff to get line items set up correctly to be able to get things to flow correctly and in order to do that I have to have those set up to push it forward. Unfortunately it’s a confusing mess,” continued Hawk.
McIntire asked Hawk where her checks and balances are. Hawk replied, “The auditors office.”
“We’re her fiscal agent. We do make sure the expenditures don’t exceed the revenues and alert them when they come close. We don’t do their daily pay-ins, and bookkeeping,” said Fairclough.