DANVILLE — Rather than just a handful of Vermilion County Board members, all 27 will now be involved Tuesday night in the initial decision whether to ask voters for either a tax increase to support the Vermilion Manor Nursing Home or the authority to sell the county-owned facility.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said board members who do not sit on the board's nursing home committee have expressed an interest in being part of Tuesday night's discussion and decision about a possible referendum this fall.
Originally, only the seven members of the county board's nursing home committee were scheduled to meet at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday to decide whether to put a question on the November ballot asking voters for a tax increase to support the nursing home on Catlin-Tilton Road or a question asking for the authority to sell the nursing home or whether to put both questions on the ballot.
Any decision the committee would have made would have moved on to the full county board for final approval. But the committee alone would have been making the initial decision about which resolution moved on to the full board.
The all-committee planning session of the Vermilion County board will be at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday in the county board chambers on the second floor of the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex, 6 N. Vermilion St., Danville.
After talking with other board members who are not on that committee, McMahon said that he and nursing home committee chair, Orick "Corky" Nightlinger, D-District 5, decided it would be best to involve the entire county board in the initial decision.
So, McMahon changed Tuesday night's meeting from a committee meeting to an all-committee planning session, which includes all 27 members of the board. Whatever may be decided Tuesday night, McMahon said, will still have to be voted on at a regular county board meeting.
Nightlinger said everyone on the board is involved already by virtue of them making the final decision anyway.
"This way it goes to the full county board, and we all get to discuss it," said Nightlinger, adding that sometimes committee meetings of the whole aren't appropriate, involving too many people, but in this case, it's positive to do it. "Rather than a small group making a recommendation, we'll take a recommendation from the whole board."
Nightlinger, who has been a long-time vocal supporter of the nursing home remaining county-owned, said he doesn't want to see the nursing home sold, but the county has a real problem with the finances, mainly because the state won't live up to its responsibilities.
Board member Chris Leigh, R-District 1, who's a member of the nursing home committee, said he's fine with bringing in the full board on Tuesday. He said the decision will end up with the full board anyway.
Leigh said he wishes the future of the nursing home didn't have to come to this point.
"I think it will come to a resolution one way or the other," he said. "If the state would just pay us, I think the nursing home would be fine, but obviously they are not, so we have to make a tough decision."
Leigh said he's not in support of increasing taxes to support the nursing home.
"But I think it's best for the county to finally come to a resolution on it," he said. "It's always going to be a nursing home. It's just a matter of who owns it. It's not going to close."
In 2004, Vermilion County voters overwhelmingly approved creating a property tax levy to support the nursing home, authorizing the current 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which generates roughly $700,000 a year. That was a two-part question, asking voters if they wanted a property tax levy to support the nursing home and also asking voters if the county should be able to sell, lease or dispose of the facility.
By a vote of 21,538 to 9,963, voters approved creating the property tax levy for the nursing home, and 22,642 people voted against giving the county the authority to sell, lease or dispose of it while 8,906 voted to give the county that authority.
If the board authorizes asking voters this fall for a property tax increase, McMahon said the proposal would be an increase of 20 cents to 30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. McMahon said the extra revenue generated by a tax increase would help the facility cover its daily operational expenses but would not provide enough money to address improvements that need to be made to the building and the grounds at the nursing home. He also said that if a tax increase were approved, it would be October 2014 before the county would see its first check from the tax increase.