Montgomery County legislators plan to transfer $28,000 to the county coroner’s budget to cover autopsy costs, which have grown in recent years.
County legislators will be asked to approve the budget transfer at Tuesday’s meeting, bolstering the county coroner’s ability to continue funding autopsies for the remainder of the year. The increase marks a pattern of increased autopsy costs the county has seen in the past couple of years and the third year county officials have had to boost the budget.
“This has been a trend we are starting to see with the coroner’s office,” said Shawn Bowerman, the county treasurer.
In 2018, the county spent around $54,000 on autopsies, Bowerman said. That cost grew to $87,000 in 2019. So far this year the county has exhausted the $60,000 earmarked for autopsies; the increase would bring the total to roughly the same as last year and should cover expenses for the remainder of the year, Bowerman said.
When the budget transfer was discussed during a committee meeting last week, county officials said the increasing autopsy costs were a function of an increase in unattended deaths, where the county covers the cost of the autopsy. During the committee meeting, some county lawmakers said they should consider whether to boost the budgeted amount in next year’s budget given the recent increases in autopsy costs.
The increase in autopsy costs does not appear to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Six residents of the county have died from COVID-19, but since those deaths were at nursing homes or hospitals, those autopsies would not have been funded by the county.
“It’s one of those budget lines [where] you guess every year it could be high, it could be low,” said County Executive Matt Ossenfort. “We have had a couple of years where [the budget] was low.”