Prince William County warned of Health District cuts

November 28, 2012

Severe funding cuts to the the Prince William Health District would endanger residents’ safety, the Board of County Supervisors was warned Tuesday.

Prince William Health District Director Alison Ansher told the board that the large cuts being considered — about 90 percent of county money to the department — would mean that Prince William would forfeit state matching funds and would leave many vulnerable residents without services.

“The health department will not be able to protect the residents of Prince William County,” Ansher said.

Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) has outlined $9.6 million in overall potential cuts to county services. Other supervisors have embraced the concept of trying to achieve a flat residential real-estate tax bill in the next fiscal year.

Stewart’s proposal would significantly reduce funding for the Health District, the Juvenile Court Services Unit and substance abuse treatment for jail inmates, among other services. He also proposed eliminating some funding for nonprofit groups, including Legal Services of Northern Virginia.

The Health District aided in the emergency response to Holly Acres Mobile Home Park in Woodbridge when it flooded last year and provided vaccines during the H1N1 flu crisis, among other efforts, Ansher said. She said federal programs — such as Women, Infants and Children, which provides food and nutrition advice to area low-income pregnant women — have expanded.

County officials are studying proposals from Stewart and other supervisors to measure the potential effects.

Ansher said after the meeting that it’s unclear what potential cuts could mean until more details are provided.

“We may not wear uniforms but clearly the health department is essential to the [board’s] priority, public safety,” she told supervisors.

Stewart said that although he thinks the programs are worthy, the state should provide funding for its programs and not force local taxpayers to pay for under-funded programs.

“My feeling is either fund them or cut them but don’t pass on the burden to local taxpayers,” he told Ansher, referring to the General Assembly. “We’ve got to make decisions, and we’ve got to make priorities. It means education, transportation and public safety. If we cut back on those . . . we’re neglecting our residents.”

The board is expected to advertise a proposed real estate tax rate Feb. 21 and is scheduled to adopt the fiscal 2014 budget April 24.

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