YUCCA VALLEY — Morongo Basin Healthcare District board members and staff gathered for a budget workshop last week to tackle the hard questions of costs, community needs and vital services.
The budget workshop lays the groundwork for a vote on the final document in June.
“This is a very conservative budget,” district controller Deborah Anderson told the board.
For fiscal year 2019-20, Anderson budgets $11.9 million in consolidated revenue and $10.3 in operating expenses.
The health centers the district runs in Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley should take in $8.76 million and spend $7.56 million.
Directors discussed giving 3 percent merit raises to employees at the two clinics, for a cost of $107,122.
“Historically, the clinics have given merit raises,” Anderson said.
Director Marge Doyle said a raise is a must.
“I think it is imperative we look at this merit increase, because we have to value our employees,” Doyle said.
The budget numbers on the new Mobile Medical Unit are still uncertain.
“This one is probably the most movable target,” Anderson said. “It is for the most part a 98 percent estimate. There is no history with it yet.”
Anderson said she took an “extremely conservative” approach when calculating future government grant amounts that may fund the mobile clinic.
“We are assuming we will be renewed for another grant,” Anderson said. “If we do not get renewed for the grant, it would drastically change these numbers.”
At the end of Anderson’s budget reports, she received praise from four of the five directors, who did not have further questions.
President Bob Armstrong, who had requested a midyear budget that was not delivered, said he had a lot to ask about the finances — especially for line items that weren’t provided, like investment and grant revenue.
“I hate to be the only one here, Debbie,” Armstrong started.
He said he appreciated Anderson’s conservative accounting, but told her numbers must be listed in a budget.
“At some point in your job you have to swag a number,” Armstrong said. “None of this is you. I appreciate what you are doing!”
Armstrong said one of his biggest fears is the development of programs without the revenue to keep them afloat. He cited the Lift Transportation program and the Mobile Medical Unit as two programs costing more than they are generating.
“We have to expect that there is a time when they will make money on their own,” he said.
Armstrong said he does not want to see the district tapping into its $17 million in investments to fund programming.
“What are we signing the next board up for?” Armstrong asked emphatically. “We do not want to tap into the $17 million.”
Armstrong said the district is paying fund managers well to know the numbers on investments.
“We are paying someone to manage our portfolio,” he said. “Could they have given you a number?”
Anderson said she saw Armstrong’s point.
“I really have great comfort in you,” Armstrong said. “I do find you are very conservative and we can trust your numbers.”
Director Joseph Sullivan asked about supply costs and whether employees are “holding the line” on expenses.
Anderson said it has improved with staff “tightening up” on costs and often using generics instead of name brands.
Director Misty Evans said hiring a grant development expert could help the district. Evans also stressed the importance of grant revenue and asked for a future report.
“I think grants would be important,” Evans said. “I want to know what is going on with the grants.”
The annual financial audit in December 2018 found the Morongo Basin Healthcare District had plenty of cash reserves and steady revenue sources.
“You have a lot of reserves,” CPA Tom Dingus, the primary auditor, told the board in his Dec. 6 presentation. “It is a very stable position to be in.”
Dingus, who specialized in health care, told the district that many of the nation’s health care agencies have less than 90 days of cash on hand.
“Very few have over 500 like you do,” he said.
The district’s 2018 total investments were valued at $14.6 million, compared to last year’s amount of $12.6 million.