Committee shifts ‘float’ to make cash flow woes go

Published 8:41 am Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Cash flow, patient care and a convenience center took center stage at the Carter County Commission’s Budget Committee meeting Monday evening.
Caroline Hurt, director of the Carter County Health Department, broached two of those topics, asking for help with the department’s cash flow and in making room for an increased flow of patients into the department.
Hurt asked the committee to shift a contract from the state from her operating budget to a different portion in the budget to alleviate cash flow problems for the health department.
The DGA contract the county receives from the state is a reimbursement grant subsidizing the salaries of several health department employees.
“The DGA contract is fully reimbursable, but you have to spend it before you can be reimbursed,” said County Finance Director Ingrid Deloach.
That’s where the cash flow woes come from.
Deloach and Hurt said the health department’s operating budget now has to “float” the funds for those salaries subsidized by the grant until the county receives reimbursement from the state. Each month the department has to “float” approximately $28,000 from its operating budget to cover the salaries.
Deloach said once the salaries are paid by the Health Department, the reports are turned into the state, but “it takes some time to trickle through their process” for the payment to be reimbursed.
Hurt said that process has prevented her from being able to pay for maintenance and repair projects at the department, as well as other purchasing, because she must always keep enough money in her operating budget to cover the floating salary payments.
“When we get to the end of the fiscal year I can’t spend my operating budget because my cash flow has to float the payroll,” Hurt said. She asked the county to detach the DGA contract from her operating budget and move it to another area of the county’s budget – one that could better handle the floating salary payments.
Committee member Bill Armstrong made a motion to transfer the DGA contract from the Health Department budget to the General Fund budget. The motion was seconded by committee member Nancy Brown and passed unanimously on a vote by the committee.
A second request to the committee by Hurt wasn’t as immediately successful and was referred to another committee for further review.
Hurt asked the committee to shift funds within her current budget so she could hire an architect to create preliminary plans for a proposed renovation at the Health Department’s annex building.
“We’ve got some space where we need to create patient care rooms,” she said, adding the rooms will serve a dual purpose as counseling rooms and as medical treatment rooms.
She said the proposed renovation would take some space away from the existing conference room at the annex, but would create six additional patient care rooms for use by the department. Hurt said the conference room would see a space reduction of one-fourth to one-third of its current size. The conference room is currently used for both government and public meetings and conferences.
According to Hurt, the additional rooms are needed because of the increased volume of patients being treated at the health department, an increase she said has also led to the state subsidizing two more “patient-seeing” staff members for the department.
A motion was made by committee member Tom “Yogi” Bowers and seconded by member Steve Chambers to refer Hurt’s request to the Building and Grounds committee for review because the matter dealt with a county building. The motion passed unanimously on a vote.
The committee also heard a request from fellow Commissioner John Lewis, who is not a member of the Budget Committee. Lewis asked for an allocation of $20,000 to the solid waste budget to pay for the completion of the landfill’s Elk Mills Convenience Center.
During the Commission’s regular meeting on July 21, members voted to allocate $100,000 from the fund balance to provide money for landfill projects, with the first priority being the purchase of a rolloff truck and the second priority being the completion of the Elk Mills Convenience Center.
Lewis said the new Convenience Center must be opened soon – prior to Sept. 1 – or the county will find itself “in a bind.” According to Lewis, the county rents the property where the current convenience center is located from Larry Miller, who was elected as a member of the County Commission representing the Sixth District in the General Election on Thursday. Miller will take office on Sept. 1.
Once Miller takes office, Lewis said, the county will no longer be able to contract with him for the rental of the property. “It would be a conflict of the interest,” Lewis said.
Members of the committee questioned how much money the county paid in rent for the property. Deloach said she did not know the exact amount but estimated it is less than $1,000 per year.
The committee also asked Landfill Manager Benny Lyons for a progress report on purchasing a rolloff truck. They questioned if he could find a suitable truck and have $20,000 remaining to complete the Elk Mills convenience center. Lyons said he hadn’t located a truck to purchase, but has some prospects he is checking out. He added he didn’t think the funding would allow for the purchase of a reliable truck and the completion of the convenience center project.
Some members of the committee took exception to Lewis requesting additional funding at this time, with so many members of the current commission not returning after Sept. 1.
“Don’t come up here 11 days before I leave office and ask me to approve $20,000 more,” said Chambers.
Chambers made a motion to table discussion on funding for the Elk Mills convenience center until after Lyons finds and purchases a rolloff truck. The motion was seconded by Bowers and passed unanimously on a vote.

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