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Nursing home doesn’t consume very much in local taxes

Posted 2 November 2013 at 12:00 am

Editor:

I have lived and paid taxes in Orleans County for 48 years. In 2009, my mother was a resident of “The Villages” for 5 months until her death at age 97. When I read reports of the decision by the Legislature to sell the nursing home to a private, for-profit corporation because it was “a losing proposition” and was “costing the taxpayers millions of dollars,”  I felt a vital interest in the issue.

Because of conflicting statements in the press, I secured a copy of the 2013 Orleans County Budget and have been studying it for many weeks. I discovered the following surprising facts:  The cost (appropriations) of operating “The Villages” for the year was projected to be $11,273,050. The total income (revenue) was projected to be $11,352,730 – for a projected SURPLUS of  $79,680.

Although the basic operation of The Villages was projected to be a surplus, the payment of $919,856 toward the remaining long-term bond ($8,300,000) for reconstruction  of the buildings in 2007 resulted in a final cost to the county of  $840,176. That’s all. Not millions, like the Sheriff’s Department ($3,013,385) or the Jail ($3,437,418) or Social Services ($12,723,258) etc.

The Grand Total cost to the county taxpayers in the 2013 budget is projected to be $18,678,180. Of that grand total, the bill from The Villages is only 4.5 percent!  Actually, it’s all the rest of the county budget that is a “losing proposition” and is costing the taxpayers millions!!

Another factor that puts the financial facts of The Villages in perspective is that it will cost the taxpayers $50,153 MORE for just the two offices of the District Attorney and Public Defender ($890,329) than for the operation of the nursing home for the whole year!!  And, The Villages employs 101 full-time and 64 part-time people who provide  personal, quality, 24 hour-a-day care to the 120 nursing home residents and up to a dozen rehab patients.

The Legislature is not being “responsible” to the taxpayers by selling off our nursing home when its share of our tax bill is so small and what it provides to Orleans County is so great!

Apparently, the Legislature doesn’t want to know or care what the public thinks about its decision regarding the future of The Villages. Their attitude seems to be that they know what’s best for the taxpayers, and they just ignore their constituents’  wishes.

I left a phone message and sent two letters to my representative on the Legislature. I heard nothing from him until he appeared at my door campaigning for votes for re-election.

In a phone conversation with Mr. Nesbitt, our CAO, he argued for the sale of The Villages by saying that three other counties in the state with less than 50,000 population have sold their nursing homes to private corporations.

This reminded me of what parents reply to their children who ask to do something foolish and say “all their friends are doing it”“If your friends decided to jump off a cliff,  would you want to do that too?”

I wish someone would interview the nursing home employees, residents and taxpayers of those three counties and find out if they are better or worse off, glad or regretful that the sale was made and then report the findings to us before final actions are taken with our nursing home.

So, are there other unstated reasons that the legislators, except Mr. Bower, want to sell The Villages? One legislator told me that he didn’t think the taxpayers should have to pay for the retirement and other benefits that the NH employees receive through their union contract. He said he never had retirement benefits during his years of employment. Yet  Orleans County taxpayers contribute toward all other county employees’ retirement  benefits.

It appears that the legislators’ minds were firmly made up BEFORE the Public Hearing last Feb. 25. Less than 30 minutes after the hearing (not two days), five of the six legislators present (Callard, Eick, Johnson, Rush and Smith) voted to proceed with the formation of an LDC that would find a buyer for The Villages. (Mr. Bower voted nay.)

Our Legislature has become like an oligarchy “government by a few, especially a small faction of persons.” But we still have the power to change our county government’s actions by voting for individuals who are more responsive to our wishes. If we don’t, we have no right to complain.

I’m thinking the only way the sale of The Villages could be at least paused and reconsidered would be if the Legislature, recognizing the ground swell of opposition,  would table the issue until after the voters have the opportunity to voice their wishes at the ballot box. That’s the way a democracy works.

Diana Dudley
Albion