WOODSTOCK – A plea by the McHenry County Department of Health to undo a 25 percent cut to its breast and cervical cancer screening program for this fiscal year squeaked by the County Board.
Board members voted Tuesday to restore $40,000 in funding for the remaining six weeks of the 2011 fiscal year. The 17-5 vote was just one vote more than the two-thirds needed to amend the present year’s budget. The County Board, which in previous years has contributed $158,000 to the program, cut it back to $118,000 this year to help balance the county budget.
Had the funding not been restored, Public Health Administrator Patrick McNulty said, the health department would not have been able to screen women until the Dec. 1 start of the 2012 fiscal year.
But despite the approval, County Board members on both sides of the split vote made it clear to McNulty that they did not approve of him asking for more money when every other county department has made do with cuts.
“I personally, honestly feel that if given enough forethought, we’d be able to provide these services with the funding given,” said Finance and Audit Committee Chairman Scott Breeden, R-Lakewood.
The program, which started in McHenry County in 2007, is funded primarily through grants from the Illinois Department of Public Health. It paid $170,670 to the health department in 2007 and will pay just less than $403,000 for 2012. The county portion of the budget is used only when state funding is exhausted, McNulty said.
The money has been exhausted because the program is a “stellar performer,” McNulty said. The program saw 400 cases in 2007 and saw more than 1,000 for the first half of this year. Eleven women this year were diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer.
Public Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Virginia Peschke, R-Woodstock, defended the expenditure as being necessary to save lives, and not a matter of squandering money. She called the debate over $40,000 “penny wise and pound foolish.”
“It’s $40,000. It’s not about money – it’s about people,” said board member Robert Bless, R-Fox River Grove. “I don’t understand why we’re making such a stink about this.”
The problem, opponents argued, is not the program’s merits but respecting the budget process that has kept the county in the black during the bad economy. If the board undoes one cut, Breeden said, other departments will ask to do the same.
McNulty and other department heads were told at the start of the budget year that they could ask the board to undo cuts at year’s end if there was surplus funding, Associate County Administrator of Finance Ralph Sarbaugh told board members.
Breeden and board member John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, accused McNulty of not trying to make do at all, but simply asking for more money at year’s end.
“It looks like there was no change,” Hammerand said. “I don’t think he took direction – that we were cutting this for real.”
A motion by Hammerand to cut the funding to $26,000 failed, as did a motion by Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, to try first to find the $40,000 in the health department’s budget. Peschke said much of the department’s budget comes from grants that must be spent on specific things.
How they voted
The McHenry County Board voted Tuesday, 17-5, to restore $40,000 for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year to the Department of Health’s breast and cervical cancer screening program.
Voting yes were Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake; Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills; Robert Bless, R-Fox River Grove; Randy Donley, R-Union; Mary Donner, R-Crystal Lake; Sue Draffkorn, R-Wonder Lake; James Heisler, R-Crystal Lake; Tina Hill, R-Woodstock; Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake; Mary McCann, R-Woodstock; Peter Merkel, R-McHenry; Anna May Miller, R-Cary; Virginia Peschke, R-Woodstock; Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry; Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry; Kathleen Bergan Schmidt, D-Crystal Lake; and Board Chairman Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake.
Voting no were Ersel Schuster, R-Woodstock; Scott Breeden, R-Lakewood; Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard; John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake; and John Jung, R-Woodstock.
Board member Marc Munaretto, R-Algonquin, was absent. Member Robert Nowak, R-Cary, was present but was not in the room for the vote.