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With new law, TB funds can be converted to other public health services

MORRIS – It has been several years since the last tuberculosis outbreak in Grundy County, but the county will still be collecting $42,000 from taxpayers in fiscal 2014 for a tuberculosis services fund that has its own levy.

“That levy has probably been around since tuberculosis started,” said Heidi Miller, Grundy County’s land use director and interim administrator. “It’s been in there [the budget] for quite a long time.”

Typically, the money would be restricted for funding tuberculosis services only, but thanks to changes in Illinois law, the county’s tuberculosis funds will not go to waste.

Funds from a tuberculosis levy can be converted to fund other public health services if the county does not have an existing tuberculosis board or sanitarium but has an established board of health, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Under this law, the tuberculosis levy can amount to no more than $0.075 for every $100 of assessed property value.

Grundy County meets these requirements and can therefore convert the tuberculosis levy into an added source of revenue for the county health department.

“Usually, we transfer $40,000 from that fund. This year, we will transfer about $90,000,” Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said. “With this legislation, we could transfer all of the money if we really wanted to, with the understanding that if there were a TB outbreak, the cost would come out of the general fund.”

At the end of fiscal 2013 – or Nov. 30 – the county had roughly $125,000 in the tuberculosis fund. By the end of fiscal 2014, the county expects to have $64,015.

Severson said the county took a larger portion of the money this year because county finances have been tight.

“No one wanted the county to operate at deficit so we did everything we could to keep a balanced budget,” Severson said.

Judy Bailey, director of nursing for the Grundy County Health Department, said while the county does treat cases of latent tuberculosis infections, the county has not seen a tuberculosis outbreak in years.

People with latent TB do not feel sick and don’t have any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are infected but do not have TB disease and the only sign of an infection is a positive reaction to the tuberculin skin test or TB blood test. They are not infectious and cannot spread TB to others, according to the CDC.

The county has only treated two cases of latent infections this year.

“It’s been a very long time since we’ve had an outbreak. There is a very low risk for TB in Grundy,” Bailey said.

IDPH Spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said the state doesn’t keep track of how many counties in Illinois still have a tuberculosis levy.

“We don’t keep those records, but I would say that typically, our health departments do not have a TB levy,” Arnold said.

Severson said the county’s board of health opted to keep money in the fund as a precaution, but he added that the county will most likely transfer more money from the fund now that it can be used for other public health services.

“In reality, if we actually had a TB outbreak, the cost wouldn’t come out of the general fund, anyway,” Severson said. “The CDC and federal agencies would take over if something like that happened.”

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