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Health chief confirms he’ll be over budget

Thursday, February 01, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

The county’s Bureau of Health chief confirmed Wednesday that President Todd Stroger’s budget for the department won’t come close to reality unless more funds are obtained during the year.
“There is no question, unless additional revenues are brought in, I will be over budget (by year’s end),” said Dr. Robert Simon in testimony before the county board. “I want to be 100 percent clear.”
Simon said the Bureau of Health could live within its new budget of $723 million and provide core health services, but he reminded commissioners that the budget assumed all his cost-cutting measures were in place at the beginning of the budget year, Jan. 1. With a month already gone by, and a budget vote not in sight for at least another three weeks, that will mean about a quarter of the year will go by with the health system spending at last year’s higher rates, Simon said.
The comments seemed to lend credence to criticism by some commissioners that some of Stroger’s numbers are not realistic, and the perception that he is banking on receiving more state funds when Illinois passes its budget in June.
“My hope is, and this is my intense hope, is that we will be able to get additional revenues in here. So that come September, come October, we can say, ‘You know what, we’ve gone over budget for something neither you nor I could control. … but what we’ve done is we’ve brought these additional revenues from the state and from additional revenue collections,’” Simon said.
The “additional revenue collections” refer to anticipated better collection of patient fees by hiring a contractor to do that work for the county. But those anticipated funds of $43 million already have been put in the $723 million budget, and county CFO Tom Glaser said it was unrealistic to expect any more than that.
He noted that the $43 million figure is “already stretching the revenue estimate.”

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