What's to be done about the county's nursing home?
Inaction leavened by hope triumphed Tuesday over a proposal for a difficult debate on the future of the Champaign County Nursing Home.
The financially troubled institution faces serious challenges. Nonetheless, county board members dropped plans to ask voters' advice in the November election.
A handful of Democratic and Republican board members suggested presenting voters two related questions. One involved a proposed property-tax increase of 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to help bail out the nursing home. The other asked for voters' permission to sell the nursing home if the property-tax increase was not approved.
Instead, however, the proponents decided to drop the issue both for a lack of support and their own misgivings about the soundness of their plan.
Board members and taxpayers alike will sit tight and see how the future unfolds. If past is prologue, big problems loom. The nursing home has lost money in eight of the last 12 months.
On the credit side of the ledger, it has a cash balance of nearly $1 million and accounts receivable of roughly $4 million. Unfortunately, much of the money it's owed is from the state's Medicaid program, and our virtually bankrupt state is not too keen on paying its bills. The nursing home owes $2 million.
It's hard to run a business under those circumstances. That's why proponents of the ballot questions, like Urbana Democrat Brendan McGinty, wanted to bring voters into the debate.
Ironically, it's hard to imagine presenting two more unpopular subjects to local voters.
Champaign County residents, who have been incredibly supportive of the nursing home, would surely view selling the nursing home as a serious defeat. At the same time, in the wake of a series state and local tax increases, they surely are tired of requests for more.
So county board members will remain on their own as they face this dicey issue, and that's not necessarily good. McGinty suggested that some board members simply do not understand the depth of the problems surrounding the nursing home and are simply hoping that somehow, some way, things will work out in the end.
That's no way to do business. But, for now, taxpayers can only hope board members' wishful thinking is realized.