Our View: Here comes that nursing home question againVoters in St. Croix County will again have an opportunity to vote on a nursing home referendum — this time in the April 3 election. We say again, because voters essentially approved a tax subsidy to the home during a 2008 referendum.
By: Editorial staff, Hudson Star-Observer
Voters in St. Croix County will again have an opportunity to vote on a nursing home referendum — this time in the April 3 election. We say again, because voters essentially approved a tax subsidy to the home during a 2008 referendum.
The major difference this time is that the county will ask voters for a specific amount of tax dollars to subsidize the home. The 2008 referendum was more a generic question about supporting a nursing home. That referendum passed overwhelming by a 2-1 margin. The April 3 referendum will ask the specific question of whether taxpayers are willing to contribute a specific amount — $333,002 each year.
The debate of whether or not the county should be in the nursing home business has been going on for about 25 years. This paper has long questioned the fairness, and wisdom, of the county being in the nursing home business.
The bottom line is that the county cannot operate a nursing home that will operate in the black. It will always be necessary to have taxpayers provide a subsidy for a county-owned home. We’ve already covered this discussion several times, but county employees have traditionally received much higher pay and much better benefits than people who work for privately owned nursing homes. But, if taxpayers are willing to support that situation, so be it.
Then there is the fairness issue. Opponents of a county home will argue that private care is just fine. There are many fine nursing homes throughout the county and it is inappropriate for the government to be competing in a field/industry that, for the most part, is operated in the private sector.
Would taxpayers support a tax-subsidized car dealership, grocery store or restaurant and allow the subsidized businesses to compete with private businesses? The obvious answer should be “no.”
But, sooner or later, the wishes of the voters must be honored and a commitment made by county officials — one way or the other. We can’t keep bringing the nursing home matter to continued referendums. It will become a bit like recall elections — too many and too often.
After the April 3 vote, the county board will face essentially two choices:
1) Get out of the nursing home business and lower taxes, or apply the tax subsidy in areas where governments should be involved.
2) Commit to the nursing home business, compete with private business and live with the tax subsidy.
Let’s hope, however, that the April 3 vote becomes the deciding vote.