The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners is working through the budget process for fiscal year 2024, during which the Board is considering the budget proposals of county departments. In prior years, boards have adopted the budget with little to no adjustment from department requests.
The current Board is invested in providing active oversight to Ottawa County on behalf of the people they serve, including the review and adjustment of department budget proposals where needed. The Board Chair and other commissioners have a reasonable desire to return the Department of Public Health budget to normal pre-Covid levels, while ensuring the county meets the needs of the community. We recognize change is hard, and reducing the size of government rarely happens.
Information about the current budget proposal and process follows.
Q: Who determines department budgets in Ottawa County?
A: The Board of Commissioners, as elected representatives of the people, are entrusted with setting the budget for county government departments.
Q: What is the budget process for Ottawa County?
A: The first budget draft for fiscal year 2024 was provided to the Finance and Administration Committee on August 1, 2023, built on the budget requests of county departments. This year, the Finance Committee added two public work sessions to the budget process.
The budget process includes the following:
- August 10, 2023, Finance Committee, Special Work Session
- August 21, 2023, Finance Committee, Special Work Session
- September 12, 2023, Public Hearing on the Budget
- September 19, 2023, Finance Committee to vote to forward a proposed 2024 Budget to the full Board of Commissioners
- September 26, 2023, Board of Commissioners to vote to finalize a FY24 budget for Ottawa County
As the Finance Committee considers the budget, adjustments are made based on details requested and provided by the Administrator, Fiscal Services, elected officials, appointed officials, and department heads.
A public hearing on the budget will be held on September 12, 2023. The Finance Committee will vote on September 19, 2023, to forward a proposed 2024 Budget to the full Board of Commissioners for consideration. A final budget will be voted on by the full Board of Commissioners on September 26, 2023.
Q: Will the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (DPH) budget go back to normal levels in 2024?
A: Yes, the Board of Commissioners is working towards setting the DPH budget back to pre-Covid levels, adjusted for inflation and population growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has ended. It is incumbent upon leaders to ensure that funding, staffing, and programs which were designated for that purpose, are wound down.
Q. Has the DPH budget skyrocketed since 2020?
A: Yes, the 5 year average of the DPH budget expenditures from 2016 to 2020 was $10.5 million, with FY19 expenditures reaching $11.2M, and FY20 expenditures reaching $12.2M. DPH’s budget continued to dramatically increase during the COVID-19 response.
- In FY21, DPH expenditures were $13.4M.
- In FY22, DPH expenditures were $15.6M.
- In FY23, DPH budgeted $15.2M in expenditures, which rose to $18.5M by the end of the fiscal year.
- DPH requested a budget of $17.4M in expenditures for FY24, which would include continued staffing and budget at Covid-19 era levels.
The Board will be considering a DPH expenditure budget for FY24 of $13.8M. DPH expenditures in FY2019— the last pre-Covid year, adjusted for population growth and inflation, equals $13.6M.
Average Health Department Budget, 2016-2020: $10.5M
2021 Public Health Expenditures (Mid-Pandemic): $13.4M
2024 Budget Requested by Public Health: $17.4M
2024 Proposed Public Health Budget: $13.8M
Q: What are the historical General Fund contributions from Ottawa County to DPH?
A: Funding for DPH is provided through state and federal funding, grants, as well as General Fund (GF) contributions from Ottawa County. The 5-year average county GF contribution was $3.8M from 2016 to 2020, with a $3.9M GF contribution in 2020.
Q: What will the DPH General Fund contribution be in FY24?
A: DPH requested a GF contribution of $6.7M for FY24, a 72% increase from the last pre-COVID year budget. DPH proposed using an additional $700K of the $3M Public Health fund balance for FY2024, for a total of $7.4M in county funding. This large increase outpaced population growth and inflation for Ottawa County in recent years.
In order to bring the DPH budget back in line with normal historical levels, the following amounts are being considered for FY2024:
$4,356,006 General Fund contribution
$1,471,597 Public Health Fund Balance
$5,827,603 Total County Contribution ($5.8M)
Q. “Of the top ten largest counties in the state, Ottawa County grew the most since 2020, with an increase of 1.34%.” (Ottawa County Bulletin, April 5, 2023)
Does the recommended county contribution in FY24 compare to pre-Covid19 years when adjusted for population growth and inflation?
A. A $5.8M county contribution through the GF and DPH Fund Balance for FY2024 is consistent with Ottawa County’s population growth and inflation since 2020.
In FY20, the proposed county contribution to DPH was $4.736M, with $4.0M from the GF and $736K from the DPH Fund Balance. Adjusted for population and inflation, the FY20 contribution equals $5.41M in today’s dollars. Under the proposed budget, Ottawa County would provide $5.8M in county funds in FY2024, $400k above FY20 funding levels adjusted for population and inflation.
Q: Were positions added for the COVID-19 response?
A: On 8/24/21, the prior Board approved $2.1M for 17 full-time, benefited positions, and 25 part-time non-benefited positions to respond to COVID-19. When these positions were approved in 2021, they were approved with the recognition that the positions were being used for the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
DPH’s total personnel is one-third higher than the last pre-COVID year, jumping from around 90, to a current level of 120, only a few years later. This 33% increase far outpaces County population growth and inflation over that period. This number should return to normal levels.
Q: Will Children’s Special Health Care Services or the Maternal and Infant Health Program be closed or services reduced?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: Will the following programs be closed? Pathways to Better Health, the Dental Sealant Program and Miles of Smiles Mobile Dental Office, Family Planning and Women’s Health Services, Ottawa Food, and the Suicide Prevention Coalition?
A: No. There will be a reduction in Covid-19 funding, staffing, and programs, and returning DPH expenditures to normal pre-pandemic levels.
Q. Are the needs of the people a priority to the new Board?
A: Yes. The conservative Board majority includes 2 nurses, a former social worker, a teacher, and those with business and government backgrounds. Board members bring decades of professional and life experience to their work, both in meeting the needs of people and in working through budgets. Board members are parents who specifically ran on parental rights and protecting children— and make children a priority in everything they do. Board members are committed to ensuring the needs of children, families, and businesses are met.
The Board’s focus on unmet needs– increasing support for veterans by creating an enhanced Department of Veterans Affairs, and prioritizing ADA compliance across county buildings in the CIP plan, including the DPH and CMH buildings, shows some of the priorities of the new board of commissioners. The board is initiating budgetary action on items with potential for significant positive impact for members of our community.
Q. Is the Interim Health Director able to share public information or inform the public of a public health emergency?
A. The Interim Health Director is able to share health information and inform the public of a public health emergency through the County Communications Director.
The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners will continue to work to meet the needs of the people, fulfilling the requirements of county government with excellence, while protecting individual freedoms and parental rights.