By Greg Kelm
Posted Jul. 17, 2016 at 10:00 AM
The Boone County Health Department recently wrote a check for $2,485 to the VFW/Boone County Veterans Club for food-service permit fees with which they had been wrongly charged since 2008.
Now, the Health Department again wants to charge all of the nonprofits in Boone County.
About eight weeks ago, I asked for the last three years of wrongly charged food-service permit fees, totaling $1,260 ($470, $395 and $395) to end this matter. Sherry Branson, a board member for the Boone County Board and the Boone County Health Department, countered with $412 to settle it.
At the last Health Department board meeting, I firmly asked the board to pay what it owed the club — $2,485 — or the club would hire counsel. And if it won, members would ask for not only the $2,485 since 2008, but for attorney fees and court costs. I was contacted later that day and told that a check for $2,485 would soon be in the VFW's hands. When countered, the Health Department board topples like a house of cards. At our VFW Post meeting June 13, the VFW decided it will donate the $2,485 back to the nonprofits in the community within the next 90 days.
Since 2006, our food permit fees at the VFW have increased more than 522 percent. The VFW paid $450 for a food permit in 2015; McDonald's & Burger King paid $205 per year; Belvidere Ace, $120; Subway Gateway, $205; The Brick, $240; Buchanan Street Pub, $140; Buchanan Street Bar and Grill, $450; Tropical Oasis, $260; Pizza Hut, $240; Maria's Pizza, $450; Arby's, $450; and Starbucks, $240. The fees are all over the place with no rhyme or reason.
When I asked the Health Department why there was a more than 100 percent difference in fees between the VFW and McDonald's, I was told that the VFW was considered “high risk.” Again, I would like to point out that the McDonald's fee is $205 and Belvidere Ace is $120. One sells food 24/7 (McDonald's), the other sells soda and candy bars and gives away popped popcorn (Ace Hardware).
Now, the Health Department wants all nonprofits to pay fees. The sky is falling and the Health Department says, "We are in the red. We need more money. We need more fees, now!"
My concern is, if you have budget problems, why, in 2013, did you, the Health Department, give your staff $56,000 in wage increases? In three years, that raise has grown to more than $168,000. It is reported that Cindy Frank gave herself a 55 percent pay increase. I am curious if this was really true? I know we all dream of a “cushy” lifetime, an 8-to-5 government job with most weekends and all major holidays off, and raises to our own pay whenever we can. But in the real world outside of government that does not happen.
The Health Department now proposes hiring an administrator for $90,675 in 2017. Boone County Health Department, hello, have you ever heard of truly working to have a balanced budget in place? Maybe you need to combine some jobs or have some layoffs so you can then be in the black. All of your money comes from local, state or federal taxes, (grants) our money.Maybe everyone needs a 10 percent pay decrease at the Health Department. But please leave the churches, the granges, youth baseball and all of the volunteer organizations of Boone County alone. They give so much back into our county.The 2015 annual report stated that the Health Department had a budget of more than $1.1 million dollars. Eighty-eight percent was used for salaries and benefits for staff. Again I say, hello? Is anybody out there?Health Department: Is it true that year after year you have more than $500,000 in untapped grant money? Are you keeping this for future pay increases?Greg Kelm has been the commander of VFW Post 1461 Belvidere since 2006; president of the Boone County Veteran's Club since 2006; and commissioner of the Veteran's Assistance Commission of Boone County recognized 12-12-12 by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.