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Did state agency savings plan cut employees it wasn't paying for?

Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH)

Is eliminating an expense you weren't paying for really a savings? It is a question some lawmakers are asking about the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s decision to cut employee positions at county health departments across the state.

“[Counties] will send a check to the Health Department from the ad valorem [tax] for the employee salaries,” said Representative Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville.

Cleveland represents an area where county health departments will be losing state employees. He, and others, are concerned that the state will be losing money with the employees.

“How come you are claiming you are saving this much money because you really aren't because you are getting reimbursed for that employee,” Cleveland told FOX 25.

“None of these positions were they completely funded by a different source,” said interim Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger. He told FOX 25 the county reimbursement payments may cover the amount of some salaries, but the way payments and salaries were structured made it difficult to isolated the county payments and individual salaries. In addition, the county payments are tied to employee levels.

In a hypothetical example, the situation can be best understood by imagining the state providing three employees to an individual county. The county would pay the state an amount that may be equal to the amount of two salaries, but that money was not dedicated to any single employee’s full salary. Then, if the state cut just one of those three employees, the reimbursement would not cover the amount needed to keep the other two employees.

“The county funding situation was taken into consideration the fact that they do get millage funds from the counties everything was taken into consideration,” Doerflinger told FOX 25.

Doerflinger said the Health Department is still an agency in crisis, but added there is a lot of work happening right now to fix the financial situation. He says the agency is on track to get back in good financial shape.

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