Second Reading Cuts FMH Funding Request by More than Half

WINNSBORO (March 18, 2016) – County Council Monday night passed second reading on an ordinance to amend their 2015-2016 budget to provide additional funding for Fairfield Memorial Hospital, although for less than half of what the hospital requested, and not without taking some criticism from the public over their methods.

Ordinance 661 reads as a basic nuts-and-bolts budget amendment, and includes no specifics of how the funds are to be spent. First reading, during Council’s Feb. 15 meeting, did not even include a fixed amount. Monday night, Council gave the OK to $200,000 in second reading.

District 7 resident Bob Carrison, speaking during the night’s first public comment session, asked Council for a full explanation of the need for the funds, and on what they would be spent. Furthermore, he said, his review of the County’s monthly budget performance report indicated a windfall of more than $400,000 in gas and diesel expenditures.

“The ordinance you’re having a second reading on tonight proposes to add $200,000 to the budget,” Carrison said. “Does this mean the Council and administration have already spent the fuel savings windfall? Has departmental spending exceeded their budgeted amount? What is it administration wants that is in excess of budgeted allocation. I believe taxpayers deserve a full explanation what and why we are being asked for additional tax dollars. Vote no and find that $200,000 savings elsewhere in the budget.”

Interim County Administrator Milton Pope later said that, “Any time County Council decides to consider additional funding outside its adopted budget, you have to perform a budget amendment to that.”

“This request came about per the request from Fairfield Memorial Hospital to the Council,” Pope said. “This is not a request because the County has overspent any line item in its budget.”

The $200,000 approved in second reading Monday is well short of the hospital’s Feb. 15 request. Fairfield Memorial is seeking $305,523.46 to pay off outstanding maintenance contract costs for their CT scan and MRI machines, as well as $146,250 to implement the new WellnessWorks program – a program for which the hospital was already under contract, Fairfield Memorial CEO Suzanne Doscher said last week.

“The $200,000 is not all of the dollars that the hospital has requested from the Council,” Pope said Monday, “but the Council is in communication with the hospital board to consider funding opportunities for the hospital and if it wants to provide funding for the hospital.”

Reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, Doscher said since the ordinance had only passed its second of three readings, it was too soon to tell how the hospital would prioritize the $200,000.

District 4 Councilman Kamau Marcharia, who last week was critical of the hospital’s initiation of a program without funding, said Monday night, “This is second reading. We will have more time to contemplate that (providing funding) for the third reading.”