The Block Island Times

BIHS to ask town for $163,800 in support

Board does not yet have public budget to accompany request
By Stephanie Turaj | Mar 03, 2013
Photo by: Stephanie Turaj The Block Island Health Services Board at its Monday, Feb 25 meeting.

The Block Island Health Services Board (BIHS) plans to ask the town for a $77,000 increase in funding in order to cover a projected budget shortfall. This would bring the BIHS total funding request to $163,800 for the upcoming fiscal year. The town has provided $86,800 in funding to the Health Services for each of the past five years.

The request was announced at the board’s Monday, Feb. 25, meeting, and it comes after members of the board said they had to dip into the board’s endowment fund to cover recent budget shortfalls.

Board members mentioned a drop in donations, increase in expenses and static patient revenue as reasons for the shortfall, but did not have budget numbers to illustrate these points.

“My concern is that we’re asking almost 100 percent above what we’re receiving now,” said board member Bill McCombe. “I don’t think anybody would argue that it’s not money well spent ... on the same token we need to really sell the reason why we’re asking for so much more from last year.”

McCombe suggested that members of the board be involved in finalizing the proposal before they go before the Town Council with the request.

For the 2012 fiscal year, the board drew around $171,000 from the endowment to cover revenue shortfalls. However, the recommended endowment draw is five percent per year (roughly $74,000), which would prevent the endowment from depleting over time, according to Investment Committee Chair Mike Hickey. Hickey began the meeting by providing the board a year-end update on the endowment’s investments.

Medical Center Executive Director Barbara Baldwin said that alternatives to requesting increased town support would be to continue to “raid” the endowment or cutting back on services.

“We went through the budget line item by line item, and I think it was pretty much the consensus of everyone there that it is a bare bones budget,” Baldwin said.

Ken Lacoste, who sits on the BIHS board and is also on the Town Council, added that when the council hears this request, it would likely ask if the $163,800 would be an annual occurrence.

BIHS Secretary Kay Lewis said that this would be a recurring amount, and members Judith Cyronak and McCombe agreed.

Peter Baute, who served as interim Executive Director before Baldwin was hired, said that last year’s increase in expenses included maintenance and technology costs. Cyronak said that other cost increases, such as for medical equipment, would be recurring.

“We need to have a short term operating plan, as well as we need to have a long-term” plan, said Bob Fallon, a board member appointed in January.

The board unanimously approved the request for $163,800.

One year mgmt. agreement finalized

After months of working without a contract between the town and the medical center, and many months of working on a compromise, the BIHS board approved a one-year management agreement between the two parties.

The one-year period had been proposed by the Town Council. The management agreement requires the BIHS to operate under certain legal guidelines while also defining what the town’s support of the facility will be.

The management agreement requires the board to conduct meetings in open session, except for nine exceptions allowed for in the agreement. The board will also provide the town a copy of open meeting minutes and post advance notice of meetings. Most discussion among BIHS board members via electronic communication such as email would be prohibited, although board members could participate in meetings via teleconference.

In return, the town offers support to the Medical Center, including leasing various buildings to the board. The Town Council had previously approved the management agreement at a Jan. 7 meeting.

BIHS Board Member Judith Cyronak said she did not agree with the one year term of the management agreement because she felt it was too short.

The board voted 8-1 for the management agreement, with Cyronak the lone nay vote. Ken Lacoste recused because he also sits on the Town Council.

Bylaws Revision

At this meeting, the board voted 9-1 to approve a bylaws revision that allows dues-paying members to vote on the removal of a BIHS director holding a member-elected seat.


How the budget  process works:

The request from the BIHS will first go to the Town Manager and the Town Finance Director, who will then recommend an amount that may or may not be $163,800 into the town budget for fiscal year 2014. The Town Council will hold hearings to decide on a final version of the town budget. The first public budget hearing is anticipated to be March 20. Finally, at the town budget hearing in May, town voters will ultimately decide on the final amount.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Michael Delia | Mar 04, 2013 09:50

Great article!

The Town Government should support a well managed BIHS to keep it from depleting it's very small endowment. Island residents cannot afford to have the Medical Center fade away over the next ten years.

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