Nursing home may be forced to borrow cash

URBANA – The Champaign County Nursing Home may have to borrow as much as $400,000 within the next year.

The good news is that the home can borrow the money at a favorable rate through a state program, said county Treasurer Dan Welch.

The bad news is that the nursing home, which for years had a considerable bank balance, has nearly emptied its account, said Auditor Mike Frerichs.

Deb Busey, Champaign County's co-administrator, said the county is optimistic that a new nursing home with more beds and more efficient workspaces will open in May 2006 and bring in more revenue.

The nursing home administrator, Andrew Buffenbarger, who took over the job from Jeremy Maupin in August, inherited the money trouble.

Buffenbarger, 30, submitted a budget amendment on Oct. 6 that asked for an increased appropriation of $930,060. Part of the cost increase was in higher personnel costs caused in part by the transition from Maupin to Buffenbarger.

Another part of the equation was an error in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund rate. Maupin's previous budget had the rate at 5.55 percent, which was outdated, Frerichs said. The actual rate was 8.13 percent.

"The problem existed before Andrew signed on," said county board Chairwoman Barb Wysocki, who praised the new administrator.

"I'm very impressed with him," she said. "He has worked very hard to establish a good working relationship with the employees, particularly the AFSCME unit."

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees worked without a contract for almost a year at the nursing home during labor problems two years ago.

About 70 percent of the nursing home's expenses are for personnel. Frerichs said he was recently told the nursing home is likely to spend all of its fund balance before the move-in next year.

Welch said the nursing home would borrow $400,000 in a worst-case scenario, through Busey Bank under the state loan program for local governments.

The rate probably would be around 5 percent, he said.

The budget deficit comes despite a 3-cent per $100 countywide property tax increase for operating expenses approved in 2002. Busey said for fiscal year 2005 the increase has given the nursing home $742,700, which does not cover the IMRF and Social Security expenses it was intended for.

The new administrator's salary is $86,008; Maupin made $93,000 in his last year, Frerichs said.

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