Nursing home board opposes ballot questions

URBANA — Members of the county nursing home's advisory board went on record Monday night against a plan to bring two nursing home-related proposals to the county's voters in November.

But supporters of putting the questions on the ballot still plan to bring the issue before the full county board next month, most likely at an Aug. 7 committee of the whole meeting. Aug. 20 is the deadline to submit proposals for the Nov. 6 ballot.

"It will still go to the county board, but it will go with a 'no' from the nursing home board, that they did not support this," said county board member Ron Bensyl, who also is a member of the nursing home board. "It's going to make it tougher, there's no question about that."

The plan, pushed by a bipartisan group of county board members, would call for asking voters to increase the nursing home property tax rate from the current 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The second question would ask for the ability to sell the nursing home if the tax increase was not approved.

But by a 6-1 vote, nursing home board members said they could not support the plan. Only Bensyl voted to support asking the referendum questions.

He said the county needed to be prepared if the nursing home's financial situation worsened. It has shown an operating loss for the last four months.

"The concern, very simply, is what happens if the state stops paying its bills and we don't have revenue warrants that we can go to? How are we going to continue to operate? What happens if we fall six months behind in paying our food vendors and they stop providing food to the nursing home?" Bensyl told the other nursing home board members. "That's a concern this board should consider. We have been that far behind with our payments in the past."

He said approving the proposals wouldn't mean that the county board would get out of the nursing home business.

"But it does allow us to be proactive and allows the (county) board to have the tools in their hands, available and ready to use, should some kind of financial emergency arise," Bensyl said. "Right now they simply do not have them."

But other members of the nursing home board said they wanted more time to discuss the issue and felt that they were being rushed to make a decision.

"I have had a question about the commitment of the county residents about having a nursing home. It isn't like I'm totally biased against the concept," said board member Robert Palinkas. "I just think this whole thing could have been executed a lot better."

Nursing home board chairwoman Mary Ellen O'Shaunessey was more blunt.

"I think we need something more thoughtful. I feel like I have a gun to my head right now and I have to think really quickly. The way this rolled out really wasn't very thoughtful."

Board member Peter Czajkowski said he believed it didn't make any sense to discuss selling the nursing home at this time.

"I can't conceive of the private sector wanting to pay anything approaching the value of the facility," he said. "I don't know what we could sell this for, but I can't believe it would be very much."

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rsp wrote on July 10, 2012 at 4:07 am

"I have had a question about the commitment of the county residents about having a nursing home."

This would be the same residents who were commited to having it enough to agree to pay for building the new facility? It sounds like the county board isn't commited, and hasn't been from the start, what with the shoddy oversight they provided to the construction process to now panicking because of financial constraints. Leadership requires that you show a way something can be accomplished, not bail out at signs of trouble and try to blame it on others. We have a 100 year tradition of taking care of our own. Is that enough of a commitment for the county board?