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County Health Spending Soars as Leaders Give Away Local Control

He who pays the piper calls the tune, and in Ventura County, it’s the state and federal governments directing local health policy via massive infusions of public health funds.

A flood of federal and state money now dominates Ventura County’s $2.7 billion annual budget, directing local decisions, particularly health policies affecting every aspect of daily life, a Guardian study of re­cent budgets shows.

Nearly half the County’s health care budget is now “intergovernmental revenue” from state and federal governments. Bil­lions in public health dollars — and man­dates — essentially govern life in the Coun­ty. Faraway state and federal politicians and bureaucrats, most of whom have never set foot in Ventura County, determine local policy via these huge public health grants and subsidies.
Recent budgets paint a clear picture: Ventura County’s leaders have handed local public health control to outside gov­ernments while reaping exorbitant salaries and benefits, making many County public health leaders multi-millionaires even as they shut down businesses and drive entre­preneurs and workers to other states with heavy-handed, unlawful “mandates.”

The County’s Health Care Agency (HCA) budget grew by 37.1 percent in the last twelve years — while the County’s population grew just 5 percent during that time. For comparison, the County’s Public Ways & Facilities budget — for maintain­ing roads, pathways and more — dropped during the same period, while sheriff and firefighting budgets grew around 12 per­cent each, even while firefighting calls for service increased more than 50 percent since 2007.

Ventura County’s Health Care Agency now relies on billions of dollars in nonlo­cal funding, which explains much of the County’s lockstep response to COVID “mandates” issued by state and federal leaders. Private medical professionals in the Conejo Valley say the pressure to con­form to federal and state “narratives” about COVID speaks directly to the federal and state governments’ ability to yank funding from local hospitals and dozens of medical subcontractors who received millions in COVID “support.” Health care profession­als who question state and federal decisions face job loss, pulled funding and the elimi­nation of entire programs.

“These days, if you go against the nar­rative, you’re a heretic and will find your­self in some trouble,” one highly specialized nurse in a local hospital told the Guardian. “There’s a lot of money at stake, a lot of state funding. If you’re getting federal money, you’d better toe the line.”

County health employees are indeed toeing the line — and becoming wealthy doing it.

Records show that the County employs at least 550 public health workers — and nearly 300 of them make $100,000 or more in annual salaries and benefits. Top earners include:

William Foley
Director Health Care Agency
$407,186

Johnson Gill
Deputy Director Health Care Agency
$355,764

Delores Pupa
Deputy Director Health Care Agency
$317,600

Robert Levin
Public Health Officer
$299,289

Sevet Johnson
Director Behavioral Health
$289,109

Rigoberto Vargas
Director Public Health
$265,466

John Schipper
Behavioral Health Division Mgr
$243,922

Peter Pringle
Behavioral Health Division Mgr
$237,593

Terri Yanez
Behavioral Health Division Mgr
$229,900

Loretta Denering
Behavioral Health Division Mgr
$203,242

(Information on every County em­ployee is publicly available at transparent­california.com.)

County CEO Mike Powers, a 30-year employee, rose to his present position from directing the Health Care Agency and makes well over $500,000 annually in salary and benefits, including an enor­mously valuable retirement package.

With fewer than 900,000 residents and a slowly growing population, Ventu­ra County is watching as its leaders — the Board of Supervisors in particular — add billions in ongoing health spending to the County budget, handing policy to state and federal governments, leaving County residents, health care workers, business owners and more to wonder how local leaders could have so easily given away control over the County’s health policy.

1 COMMENT

  1. A little long division shows that each Ventura County resident is taxed 55 cents to pay for just one man’s salary- Powers.

    That seems excessive.

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