Based on the city of Casper's most recent budget proposal for fiscal year 2022, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department is set to get $575,000 in funding from the city.

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This is an increase from previous years, with the health department receiving $513,000 in FY 2021, $540,000 in FY 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017, however FY 2016 saw an increase to $600,000.

Anna Kinder, executive director of the health department, has gone to city council several times to try and get $650,000 from the city.

At a meeting in May, council member Bruce Knells said that because the town of Mills was also serviced by the health department, Kinder should look towards them for additional funding.

Kinder said she has gotten $30,000 from Mills, but would still need more to meet the health department's budget needs.

"We're going to enter into an MOU, all subject to approval by the board, then they (Mills) committed $30,000 for this next years work. So basically we ask what we need to have to function, then we get what we get and we have to figure things out. And that's where we have to maybe restructure a bit, cut positions, cut programs, those kinds of things."

Kinder said they are asking for more because there are state mandated programs that they currently do not have the funds to cover, with something like maternity care being an area that the health department is very understaffed.

"This is how you keep your community safe, and that's why we have to fight so hard to get additional funding to try to meet the demand as much as possible, do the best we can," Kinder said. "We do the best we can, so when we get less funding, it does have an impact. There will be a deficit somewhere, but we're not committing to it at this time until we know more what we're going to get."

Kinder said when it comes to addressing budget shortfalls, the health department will look at multiple different solutions, including applying for grants, cost sharing, cutting expenses, and combining multiple jobs into one.

Casper City Manager Carter Napier said members of city council have expressed different directions for funding the health department, with some wanting to keep funding at $575,000, others wanting to increase it, and one member saying it should be lower.

Napier said members can request changes to the budget after the preliminary approval was made in May, however since their preliminary budget meeting on May 19, no council members have spoken about changing the amount of funding for the health department.

"It's an issue of trying to support an operational, ongoing cost, with money that is not operational in nature, it's more of a savings account in nature, and to me that represents an imbalance that isn't sustainable," Napier said. "The good news is it's not that big of a number so over time that number could be made up. But the reality is, what we're proposing what we see, in terms of our financial future over the next year, is there isn't room."

City council will officially approve the budget at their meeting on June 15, and has been subject to several changes since the initial approval in May.

At the health department, Kinder said they find out what their budget will be July 1, which will then dictate what programs they will cut or which positions to change.

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