Cambrian: Opinion

Cambria health district can’t afford wishful budgeting

The Cambria Community Healthcare District faces financial challenges, viewpoint writers say.
The Cambria Community Healthcare District faces financial challenges, viewpoint writers say.

The numbers don’t add up and they have not added up for a long time.

For the past four fiscal years, the Cambria Community Healthcare District’s cash expenditures have exceeded its cash receipts. Not by a small amount but, on average, by more than $60,000 for each of the last completed four fiscal years. Every indication now has the current fiscal year, July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, also ending in a cash deficit, which will then make five fiscal years in a row of deficit spending. How long can this continue to occur?

The answer to that question was provided at the last CCHD trustee meeting where the budget for the next fiscal year was presented and approved by a 4-1 vote (Trustee Barbara Bronson Gray voting no). The new budget has nothing new in it. No new sources of revenue, no significant cost reductions and a failure to address completing deferred maintenance work. The new budget is simply ... business as usual.

How can spending more cash than you receive be business as usual? A budget based upon “wishful thinking” is a budget doomed for failure from the start.

To those who may think the mudslide of January has caused the district’s financial problems, that’s not it. Crew relocation, hillside remediation and other storm damage has so far been largely covered by insurance. As previously stated, the deficit spending is not a new problem but rather a problem that has been a constant part of the operations of CCHD for over the past four fiscal years.

Shouldn’t the taxpayers of Cambria expect better from our elected Board of Trustees? Is it unreasonable to expect sound financial management and fiscal responsibility from our trustees? It appears that these two concepts are either unknown to the board majority — Bob Putney, Mary Anne Meyer and Jerry Wood — or they don’t appreciate the need for cost control.

The taxpayers of Cambria want and should demand better. The CCHD board, with the start of a new fiscal year, has the opportunity to stop the consistent and endless deficit spending. But to do so requires tough decisions and significant changes to the way the CCHD operates. Changes can be made and improvements can be implemented if they are willing to make meaningful changes. Business as usual will not work.

The trustees forming the board majority should look in a mirror and say to themselves, “We have met the enemy and it is US.”

Bill Rice is the former Chief Financial Officer, Community Health Group, and Iggy Fedoroff is the former Sector VP Contracts and Regional Marketing, BAE SYSTEMS Aircraft Controls