County could merge Health, Human Services

Published 9:47 am Monday, December 5, 2011

The county could be in line for its second department merger in a year.

A group of county employees will outline a potential merger of Health and Human Services during the county board meeting, which starts at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The board asked staff to look into merging the two offices to improve efficiencies and save costs.

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“We’ve got what we think is a good recommendation,” said County Coordinator Craig Oscarson, who is part of a group discussing the merger.

“They may not see the budget savings they have hoped to — they should see some — but it’s going to show some efficiencies to service,” he added.

Oscarson estimated the potential merger would save at least $50,000 to $75,000 a year. The question will be whether the savings and improvements are enough to fuel change.

“From a management side of the fence, it makes a lot of organizational sense,” Oscarson said.

Many other counties have merged Health and Human Services, according to Oscarson.

If the board approves the merger, which may not happen Thursday, the departments wouldn’t likely join until around April or May.

Work still needs to be done, and discussions would need to take place with the multiple unions involved.

“It could take several months on the union issue,” Oscarson said.

The county board voted to merge Environmental Services and the Highway Department to form Public Works earlier this year.

Oscarson said the name is already picked out for the potential department: the Health and Human Services Department.

“Our staff has been just great working together,” Oscarson said.

In other business

The county will hold its annual Truth in Taxation public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s going to be so confusing for the taxpayers this year, largely based on that exclusion, because it’s disproportionate on the market value exclusion based on your property value,” Oscarson said.

The board approved a maximum 7 percent tax levy increase, but the board has been looking for ways to lower the tax increase.

County set for input on taxes

What: Annual county Truth in Taxation public meeting
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: County board room
Why: The board approved a maximum 7 percent tax levy increase,  but the board has been looking for ways to lower it.