Ky health departments

A graphic shows the health departments in Kentucky that will close from rising pension costs.

GREENUP A recent report shows that the Greenup County Health Department is among many in the state that face the possibility of closing within a year without a reprieve from the upcoming rising pension costs, but GCHD Director Chris Crum said the county department is not in danger of a shutdown.

Crum said the department is in the “best financial shape we've ever been.”

Crum said the numbers used for this analysis reflect a period prior to the department’s implementation of increasing a public health tax.

Kentucky Health News is one of the first to report that 42 county health departments in Kentucky will close in the next year—including the GCHD—and 22 more will the following year, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Health. A chart of these predictions shows that Rowan County's health department is included among those that could feasibly close within a year without assistance. Boyd and Carter County health departments are not marked as in danger of closing.

Regional universities, local health departments and other quasi-governmental agencies will have to increase their pension contribution to 83 percent starting on July 1—a jump from the current 49 percent contribution rate. House Bill 358 passed on March 28 giving the agencies relief from the rise in pension costs, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Matt Bevin saying parts of the final product in the bill “violate both the moral and legal obligation” to retirees.

Crum previously told The Daily Independent he anticipated the increase in contributions and was able to work with the Greenup County Board of Health on increasing a public health tax last year during the last budget approval. He said his estimations should account for the increased contribution rate, preventing the department from closing.

“If we hadn’t we would be in that situation but we did raise that tax. We are not in danger of closing,” he said.

Crum said the department’s current budget includes approximately between $900,000 and $1 million for salaries, noting around $800,000 would need to be contributed towards retirement under the upcoming rate.

The Associated Press reported that Gov. Bevin has recently reached out to lawmakers with several changes he's agreed to make in hopes of winning enough support to have a pension-relief proposal taken up in a special legislative session. The AP reported last week that Bevin still lacks enough votes to push his pension-relief bill through the state House, even with the changes he made to his proposal.