BIHS discusses future budget and finances

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 1:45pm

Due to a reporting error, quotes attributed to BIHS Board member Ray Torrey should have been attributed to BIHS Treasurer Pete Tweedy. The online version has been corrected accordingly. 

At its meeting on Monday, Jan. 20, the Block Island Health Services Board emerged from a closed session discussion about the 2020 budget with some issues still unresolved, and with one member expressing concern about the Medical Center’s finances.

“The elephant in the room is still this budget, which is unapproved,” said Treasurer Pete Tweedy as the members began their open meeting discussion.

Tweedy indicated that the closed session discussion will lead to some changes in the budget, therefore postponing its approval.

“With the discussion we had earlier, that will change some of the numbers. I think the best thing we can do is go back, and go over this again and re-submit it to everybody so you have more up-to-date information based on our next set of plans,” said Tweedy. “I hate putting this off, but I don’t see any other way around it. You can’t vote on something that is not accurate.” Numbers for the proposed 2020 budget for the Medical Center have not yet been made public. Last year’s approved budget for the Medical Center was $1,472,490, with the town appropriating $300,000 toward that. According to the 2019 budget, the Medical Center had a deficit of $136,000.

“Explain to all of us, the process now in terms of reconfiguring some of those numbers,” asked Board President Cindy Baute.

“We are going to have to factor in whatever we think we are going to have to spend, wherever for housing, and put that back together again” said Tweedy. On the agenda there was a closed session agenda item titled, “Discuss property acquisition options” which is apparently a new housing idea for the center’s interns.

“Nothing is certain right now in terms of the town,” said Baute, referencing what appropriation to the Medical Center’s budget may finally be approved at the Financial Town Meeting in May.

Tweedy expressed concern about the direction the budget was heading.

“This whole conversation still comes down to the income side, the fundraising side, what we are going to do there? My concern is not particularly this budget... we don’t have any concrete plans on how we are going to change our income structure to accommodate our cost of doing business, and that means we are looking at this kind of a deficit every year until we are out of business, which won’t be much longer. We have to address that problem, and we have — we have talked about a number of things. How far down the road are these potential changes going to take place?” said Tweedy.


The board discussed how to re-conceptualize what they are doing in terms of fundraising, and how to move forward with their fundraising strategies.

“It is costing us considerably more to run the Medical Center than we are bringing in... we don’t have any specific plans for how to gin up our fundraising in whatever way that is appropriate, in whatever way to fill that gap. We need more money... it has to be something, or we have to significantly change our paradigm for giving care on the island. And every step backwards we take is going to be impactful on our fundraising as well. It’s our responsibility now, how are we going to pay for this? I don’t mean that as a downer . . . look at The Nature Conservancy, they have raised a lot of money,” continued Tweedy.

The board brought forward the idea of finding a volunteer on the island to offer their time toward fundraising efforts. Questions were asked regarding why the board does not have a development director.

“We have never done that before,” answered Tweedy.

“It’s always been a volunteer board and a volunteer fundraising chair, as long as I’ve been on the board... you just have to have someone that assumes that responsibility and organizes people,” responded Baute, who has been a member of the Block Island Health Services Board of Directors since 2009.

“When I started out,” said member Pat Doyle, “$22,000 was the objective for fundraising. Then it went up to $30,000, then we had a record year of $65,000. It keeps going higher and higher, in terms of our expectations of money that we can bring in. What can we do with putting in less time, that will result in more donations from the community? I think it’s an exciting place to be, but it takes the whole board to come up with some idea” in regards to raising money.

Several members agreed with the idea of finding a volunteer director to help assist with fundraising strategies.

“The time is short for even doing the one event that brings in the most money fundraising annually,” said Doyle. Doyle spearheaded the effort to create the summer gala fundraising event four years ago, and will be stepping down this upcoming summer to take a break. Preparations for that summer event are beginning now. 

The 2020 budget will be discussed in executive session, with changes made where needed.

“If we can’t come up with something, then we are going to change the Medical Center significantly next year. And that’s really the only choice,” said Tweedy.

The board continued with their list of items on their agenda, turning towards their donations for the year. Membership chair Nancy Ruddle gave her report, stating that the BIHS received $39,373 in donations, with 482 members. Last year it was $46,674 and 557 members.

“We are running a little short... our goal was $40,000, so we are getting there. We will probably have a few more coming in,” said Ruddle.

Capital Campaign

Board member Susan Stover opened up the Capital Campaign conversation, noting how important it is to show progress for those who have already donated and to appeal to potential donors.

The conversation turned to the topic of the trauma center, and how crucial this area is for the Medical Center and the  community. Some of the proposed $7.5 million Capital Campaign will go toward an expanded trauma center.

“We need to show people, it would generate more excitement... the most immediate need for patient care,” said Stover.

Dr. Clark said the architectural plans for the trauma room will continue moving forward.

Clark went on to thank the board for all its time spent with helping the Medical Center.

The date of the next meeting is set for Monday, March 16. The board may call a meeting in February for budget talks.