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Officials Claim Delco Health Department Spared from State Budget Stalemate

As the Pennsylvania state budget stalemate drags on, entities that depend on state funding will soon begin feeling the pinch.

But officials said the new Delaware County Health Department is not one of them.

“Delaware County Council is reviewing all of the county and state-funded agencies and the impact that a prolonged state budget impasse would have,” said Adrienne Marofsky. “The Delaware County Health Department is not currently impacted by the state budget impasse. Overall, the programmatic DCHD services are federally funded. All monthly grant invoices are being processed and paid, and there is no disruption to services provided by DCHD.”

The county health department’s 2023 budget will cost $18,294,538 for 2022-2023, with its “primary funding sources” being “grants and reimbursements.”

The new department has been controversial since its inception. And an analysis of the functions that county officials claimed credited to it showed they were performed by the state, such as COVID-19 vaccines, and that many were given before it even opened, meaning the tally was 2,364 rather than 172,000.

Also, a Johns Hopkins student who examined health services in the county found it could do better by creating improved organization around services already provided by the state instead of creating its own health department.

Townships in Delaware County previously balked at the proposal that the health department take over health inspections overseen by local inspectors. In some cases, the fee hike on those inspections was projected to top 500 percent.

Multiple Delaware County towns asked the Court of Common Pleas to block the plan’s implementation. The court maintained an injunction against the inspections for much of 2022.

In October, Common Pleas Judge Spiros Angelos formally barred the county from conducting inspections in first-class townships. However, lower-level municipalities will still be subject to county health department oversight.

To start the department in 2021, the county used $4.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money and took another $3.9 million from its capital improvement plan.

Republican candidate for county Council, Jeff Jones, is concerned about the county’s use of ARPA funds for various functions and programs, a practice that he believes is unsustainable because those funds are not permanent.

He said the Democratically-controlled council has used ARPA funds to start programs that will soon need increased tax dollars to continue. And council members have admitted they plan to raise taxes, he noted.

“They’re not spending money in a sustainable way,” said Jones. “If I told you what we foresee in just 2024 in the budget for the county, it will shock you because there is a looming tax increase. And that’s my evaluation…That is their words. That is the current council’s words. They can’t sustain the spending that they’ve done because they’ve got a blank check known as ARPA funds, and it’s plugged a lot of holes, but it’s created one big gaping hole.”

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