Budget shortfall forces Health Department closures in 2010

Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health approved a plan late yesterday to close the Health Department for 13 days in 2010. These “furlough days,” in which staff will be required to take leave without pay, will help to balance the Department’s budget. In addition, the Department will reduce public health programs and some staff positions.

“This was a difficult decision,” said Anthony Chen, MD, MPH, Director of Health. “We had to ask ourselves how to provide the most public health services to the community, while achieving a balanced budget. Closing our doors to the public on 13 days is painful, but allowed us to continue essential services like disease control and environmental programs.”

The Department faced a $2.2 million shortfall in 2010, due to a combination of decreasing revenues, increasing costs, and shrinking reserves. Closing the Department 13 days reduces staff salaries for a total of $1 million. The plan calls for joining some of the unpaid furlough days with existing holidays so heating, lights, and equipment can be turned off or reduced to help with the cost-cutting action while also balancing the impact upon the services and programs provided to the public.

Furlough dates include:

— Mon., Jan. 4, 2010

— Fri., Jan. 15, 2010

— Fri., Feb. 12, 2010

— Fri., March 12, 2010

— Mon., April 12, 2010

— Fri., May 28, 2010

— Fri., June 18, 2010

— Fri., July 2, 2010

— Mon., Aug. 16, 2010

— Tues., Sept. 7, 2010

— Mon., Oct. 11, 2010

— Fri., Nov. 12, 2010

— Mon., Dec. 6, 2010

Public notifications and reminders of Department closure dates will be posted at the Department, and on the Web site at http://www.tpchd.org .