Sale of County Home opportunity to save jobs, preserve needed services, lessen burden on tax payer
By TODD TRANUM
President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier
The high level of skill and care in which the services are provided by the employees within the County Home are a valued asset of our community. The services provided by the County Home to our residents are important. Both the jobs and services at the County Home must be preserved. It is the Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier's position that County officials should move forward with sale of the home in an effort to save jobs, preserve needed services and lessen the burden on the County tax payer.
When County Government sent out the request for proposals (RFP) for purchase of the home several specific criteria were developed based on a variety of concerns that were raised by the community regarding sale of the home. Only proposals that include the continued operation of the Chautauqua County Home as a skilled nursing facility for a period of ten years will be considered. Current union employees only will be guaranteed offers of employment provided they file an application and pass a background check. The proposer must include what protections or preferences, if any, would be provided with regard to the jobs, salary levels and benefits for current employees in various positions, and for what periods of time. The proposer must include what their experience is and what they will offer to Chautauqua County concerning issues such as staff training, relationship with family members, resident activities and enhancing resident and facility quality of life. Preference to admission shall first be given to Chautauqua County residents. The winning proposer will guarantee to meet or exceed an 80 percent threshold of residents who are from Chautauqua County. Current residents at the Chautauqua County Home shall have the right to remain in the facility as long as they wish. The County will be given a say in how the County Home is run in the future. Creating these criteria should help alleviate concerns regarding maintaining the services provided the home and the jobs available at the home.
The County Home is losing money. An independent audit performed by BWB this month concluded that the County Home lost $1.8 million in 2010 and over $3 million in 2011. A very balanced third party study was performed by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) and their findings were released just this past week. There is a great deal of depth to the study and recommendations. I will note that CRG projects that in the next three years (2013 2015) that the County Home is expected to yield significant annual deficits (averaging as much as $3.5 million per year). The CGR study states that under the assumption that the County remains in the business of operating the County Home and Inter Government Transfer (IGT) payments continue at current levels, the direct costs to taxpayers to continue allocating dollars match and draw down the IGT funds would be about $1.25 million. The bottom line is that the County Home as currently structured and operated cannot stand alone without taxpayer subsidy.
There are currently two offers on the table to purchase the home including a purchase offer for $16 million and a second for $16.5 million. Having gone through the RFP process the County has proven that there is a definable cash value attached to the home. Whether the offers are the right offers and which offer is the right offer has to be analyzed, but at face value the County Home is an asset, an asset inclusive of the people who work there, that has significant value in the private market.
So, here are the facts, we know without an infusion of federal and local tax dollars the County Home operation is losing money. We know that even under the best scenario, which would include significant investments in technology and operations, the County Home will continue to lose money. We know the cost of health care continues to rise. We know Federal and State resources are depleted and with that there will likely be no increases in Inter Governmental Transfers and could possibly be decreases. We know the County Home is an asset that has value in the private market and there are willing buyers. We know that once sold, the home will continue to serve the community members who need care and the facility will continue to provide jobs. We know that once the home is sold to a private firm there will be a much needed addition to our County tax base. Based on these facts we urge the County leaders to continue to move forward in pursuing the sale of the County Home.