It’s budget time at Oak Park Village Hall, and consolidations for 2016 are coming.
Most notably, perhaps, is a roughly 20-percent budget cut to the village’s Public Health Department.
Oak Park Village Manager Cara Pavlicek presented aspects of the proposed budget at the village board’s Finance Committee meeting last week; the final recommended budget will be submitted to the full board for approval later this year.
Pavlicek told trustees that consolidations within the health department will result in the elimination of two full-time employee positions – environmental services manager and emergency preparedness and response manager.
The cuts are projected to result in a savings of about $200,000, reducing the overall health department budget from $1.05 million in fiscal year 2014 to $843,511 in fiscal year 2016.
Pavlicek tells Wednesday Journal that the duties of those two positions will be continued, and the employees serving in those roles are being shifted elsewhere in the village government.
The village announced this month that Mike Charley, who served as environmental services manager, has been named interim director of the Public Health Department. That position was has been vacant since December 2014, when longtime the director, Margaret Provost-Fyfe, resigned.
Murray Snowden, the former emergency preparedness and response manager, was shifted to a vacant training coordinator position within the Oak Park Police Department.
Charley will continue his duties as environmental services manager, overseeing a number of services, including food services inspections, animal control and the Oak Park Farmers Market, and the services manager position will be eliminated, Pavlicek said.
“He’s going to do both jobs,” Pavlicek told Finance Committee members last week. “It doesn’t mean that he has to work 80 hours in a week. It means that he has to really work hand-in-hand with the deputy village manager, Lisa Shelley, and myself to identify what areas of work are no longer essential and what can be reduced and eliminated and what we can become more efficient in doing.”
Charley said in a press release announcing the consolidation that he looks forward to the challenge of taking on the new tasks.
“This is a great opportunity at this point in my career to learn more about managing the broader mission of a public health department,” Charley stated.
Last year, the Finance Committee searched for cuts to the Public Health Department, but eliminating the department altogether would be irrevocable, Pavlicek said in a telephone interview.
She said the state of Illinois no longer allows municipalities to establish their own local certified health departments, “So if you lose that status, it goes away,” she told Wednesday Journal.
Eliminating the health department altogether would push all responsibilities for disease outbreaks, vaccinations and public health crises to county and state health departments, according to Pavlicek.
Most of the daily work of the health department has been handled by two public health nurses hired by the village on a contract basis. Pavlicek said the village aims to get a full-time primary health nurse on staff at a future date to assist Charley with the additional workload.
Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb asked during the Finance Committee meeting whether having two contract nurses creates a liability for the village if bad medical advice were given. Village Attorney Paul Stephanides said at that meeting that the state’s Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act protects the village against lawsuits if faulty information is given by the contract nurses.
Pavlicek also noted in the meeting and in an interview that the two contract nurses consult regularly with Paul Luning, chief medical officer with Oak Park’s PCC Community Wellness Center.
She told Wednesday Journal that the Public Health Department is important, because having a consulting doctor within the boundaries of the village helps provide the quality medical service for the school system, nursing homes and other entities when a problem occurs.
Murray Snow’s position as emergency response manager also has been consolidated with a position training coordinator job. That change is expected to be made permanent this December, Pavlicek said.
Pavlicek said the village also is searching for other potential budget cuts by charging for some services that were formerly paid for by the village, such as rodent control and the Oak Park Farmer’s Market.
She told the Finance Committee last week that the village has a “rodent control firm where if somebody sees a rat, then the village is subsidizing the cost to go out and inspect and look at those.”
“It would be a significant service shift if we said to folks, ‘Here is a list of people we know who perform this service in the area,'” she said at the meeting. The change, referred to by village staff as the enterprise fund concept, would charge residents for the services they use.
Pavlicek said that, similarly, not everyone participates in the farmer’s market, which does rely in part on general fund revenue. The village pays for crossing guards and rental fees to put on the market every week, and those expenses could be reduced.