A study from a consultant hired by Delaware County showed the new health department, on track to open in January, will require $10 million in funds for its first year.
And it will have ongoing expenses of $8 to $10 million each year, with 30 percent coming from county tax dollars the first year. That is according to Jim Diffley of IHS Markit, a consulting firm hired by the county to study the health department requirements for a cost not to exceed $90,000. However, he said he expects that county percentage to drop to 22 percent in the following years.
Diffley, who presented a report to the county Board of Health on Aug. 5, said some 84 percent of the health department expenses will be for salaries and benefits. An estimated 67.5 employees will be hired during the first phase of operation.
Various state and federal grants will pay the remainder, and along with insurance and charges to clients for services. Board of Health President Rosemary Halt said the tax would amount to an additional $4 to $5 per resident.
However, the county will also benefit from ongoing health department-related spending, including $3.9 million from initial construction jobs, he said.
“This economic activity has its own economic multiplier,” said Diffley. “It generates income used to buy other goods.” There will also be “spending on goods, revenues to businesses (which) translates into increased demand for goods in Delaware County.”
Additionally, there would be savings from improved health benefits, the report predicted. They include fewer children suffering from lead poisoning, which would decrease special education costs and crime.
The family planning program would help reduce unwanted pregnancies and there would also be help with maternal and infant health. The study anticipates societal cost savings from reduced illnesses, increased productivity, and the value of additional years of life.
IHS Markit used other county health departments for comparison. For example, the Chester County Health Department has a $13 million budget, Diffley noted. The HIS Markit study estimated the new health department would have $8 million in revenue its first year, with $11 million annually in the following years.
While the new health department, slated to open in January 2022, will be housed in the same building now being used as the Delaware County Wellness Center at 125 Chester Avenue in Yeadon, it will also have two satellite locations. Some have questioned the excessive cost of the lease, while others wonder why a brick-and-mortar building is needed in the age of telemedicine.
On Aug. 4, County Council also approved a one-year contract with Public Health Management Corp. for $374,525 to provide staffing, training and accreditation services for the new health department, according to Howard Lazarus, county executive director. The council also reallocated $3.9 million for design services for its main and satellite offices, vehicles for environmental health and other uses, potential real estate purchases and for information technology. Also approved was an increase to the operating budget of the Intercommunity Health Department by $4.8 million to provide for the start-up costs of the Delaware County Health Department.
Meanwhile, at its Aug. 19 workshop, the Health Board is expected to discuss potential candidates for the new director of the Health Department position.