Nursing home question will go to St. Croix County votersAfter months of discussion and study, St. Croix County supervisors, still unable to reach a decision on the future of the county nursing home, voted Tuesday to put the issue to voters this fall.
By: Judy Wiff, Hudson Star-Observer
After months of discussion and study, St. Croix County supervisors, still unable to reach a decision on the future of the county nursing home, voted Tuesday to put the issue to voters this fall.
The wording of the referendum, and even the membership of the five-person committee that will draft the language, will be left to the new County Board, which will be seated in April.
The motion adopted on a 22-4 vote Tuesday afternoon says the county will continue to operate the home in New Richmond for the time being and will hold a Nov. 4 advisory referendum. In the meantime the board will continue to gather information on the cost of remodeling the existing facility or building a new one.
A proposed amendment to say that voters would be asked if the county should continue to provide a tax levy subsidy for the home failed.
The county expects to spend $790,000 of tax money this year to run the existing home.
In January a consultant estimated it would cost $11 million to build and furnish a new 72-bed replacement facility and that would cost county taxpayers about $1.2 million a year. The same consultant estimated a 50-bed home would cost over $7.8 million, for a yearly tax levy cost of about $992,000.
This week Larry Lester of Wipfli CPAs and Consultants reported that it would cost roughly $900,000 to remodel the existing 72-bed facility to a 50-bed facility with nursing home rooms on both floors. He said it would cost about $1.3 million to remodel the facility to accommodate 50 nursing home beds and a 20-unit community-based residential facility.
The annual tax levy cost for the first alternative would be about $436,000, said Lester. That would be a drop from current costs, but the home would be serving fewer patients, he said.
Lester said the county can’t avoid tax subsidies given the wages and benefits paid to nursing home employees.
“It isn’t going to be the capital side of the formula we’re going to lose on,” he said. “It’s going to be the operational side.”
Last week the Health and Human Services Committee voted 6-2 to make a series of recommendations to the board, including that the county study renovations or specialty care units only if the union agrees that newly hired employees will receive fringe benefits only up to the highest rate paid to employees at other nursing homes in the county.
Also, said Lester, another non-profit agency’s announcement that it plans to build a new nursing home in New Richmond could affect the county home.
“My assumption is you’re going to lose market share,” he said, explaining that he believes private-pay patients will choose the new facility over the county home.
“There is a need. The aging population is growing,” argued county resident Kim Dupre. “What a better place to put our dollars.”
Private non-profits may provide services more cheaply, but they don’t provide them more efficiently, she said. She suggested the county build a new 72-bed home to prepare for future need.
“We’re going to have a lot of bodies out there that need a home,” agreed Supervisor Chuck Mehls as he offered the motion to hold the referendum.