Thursday, September 28, 2017

Some Health Department Employees Facing Furloughs

Due to an estimated budget shortfall of more than $10 million dollars, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has announced a series of actions to reduce spending immediately.

The cutbacks include putting employees at county health departments, including the Sequoyah County Health Department in Sallisaw, on furlough for one day per two-week pay period, through June. Jill Larcade, OSDH regional director, said 10 of the 16 employees at the county health department will be taking furlough days.

“We will arrange the furlough days so it has the least impact on our clients,” Larcade said, “and make it easy on our employees. We are going to try not to let the furloughs impact our services.”

The agency is experiencing continued revenue shortfalls due to loss of federal funds, increased costs of providing services and reductions in the annual state appropriation.

“Since federal funds are nearly 60 percent of the OSDH budget, reductions in federal funds at the same time we are experiencing state budget shortfalls make for a perfect storm,” said Julie Cox-Kain, OSDH Senior Deputy Commissioner.

“We are grateful to the Legislature and governor for trying to minimize budget cuts to the department. Between SFY 2017 and 2018 the OSDH only received a 2.8 percent reduction in state funds,” said Cox-Kain. “However, the cumulative annual reduction in state appropriation to the OSDH since 2009 is 29.24 percent.”

Starting with the Oct. 30 pay period, OSDH personnel will be furloughed one day without pay during the two week cycle. No employee making $35,000 per year or less will be affected, but all other personnel will be subject to the furlough. The Oct. 30 effective date is required by law to provide staff with a 30-day notice. The furlough is a short term measure until long term budget reduction can be enacted and has been approved through June 30, 2018. 

In addition, a Voluntary Out Benefit Offer (VOBO) is being prepared to reduce staffing levels statewide. The plan is not yet finalized but will be announced to employees in the coming weeks. 

The current budget reductions taken by OSDH are independent of any additional budget cuts for SFY ’18 that may occur as a result of legislative action during the special session.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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