The Piatt County nursing home committee has reversed a ruling made last July to forgive about $217,000 the facility owned in property taxes to county coffers.
Citing fairness and the need to shore up county funds, the committee voted 3-0 on March 11 to require the nursing home to pay the sum back by August.
“I think it’s just being fair to all the agencies in the county,” said county board and nursing home committee member Dale Lattz. “I think in looking back and how they’re (the nursing home) doing now, and how the county’s doing, I think it’s doing what’s right in terms of paying for some of the costs that we incur.”
The nursing home has turned a financial corner in the last year-plus under director Scott Porter. Taking over for his fired predecessor, he found there was $1.3 million in uncollectible debt that needed to be written off, medicaid reimbursements that were not being claimed, and extensive borrowing made from the adjacent Maple Point Supportive Living accounts that had been done to shore up the nursing home ledger.
In addition, the practice of transferring half of the nursing home levy proceeds to the county to fund insurance costs was halted for about 13 months, which totaled about $217,000.
That is the debt the committee opted to forgive in 2018.
But the nursing home now has about two months of reserves in the bank, according to Porter, and is no longer operating in the red most months. In contrast, red ink has been prevalent on the county’s books for the past year, including a $1 million dip in its overall General Fund balance from December of 2017 to December of 2018.
County board member Shannon Carroll, who is also on the nursing home committee, said reversing last year’s vote was not an easy one, but that they needed to “get the money recouped back into the county budget. We weighed it out, discussed it and made that decision.”
Porter took the news in stride, saying “the county really supported us, so if that’s what they need that’s what we’re here for.”
And although he does not see the payback prompting any staff cuts, it may delay building work that was in the discussion stages for the facility memory care unit. It could also put a damper on the resumption of nursing home renovations, which were halted due to financial constraints in 2017.
About two-thirds of the rooms in the 100-bed nursing home, along with hallways, have been spruced up in recent years, mostly with funding from the facility’s non-profit foundation.
Other than that, Porter said, “I don’t know that residents or employees will see much of a difference. There will be a delay in some projects we were ready to start.”
The reimbursement to the county will not delay the nursing home’s migration to a new electronic records system. Point Click Care is cloud-based and reportedly more user friendly than the current American Health Tech system. Point Click Care will cost $15,915 to install and about $4,000 per month to maintain. One of the main advantages is that it will allow prescriptions to be filled electronically.
The influx of funds from the nursing home will help the county, along with a $100,000 repayment from Piatt County Transportation, but Lattz warned that, “we’re going to have to make some serious decisions in the next year.”
He also asked if there were more detailed financial reports available. County Treasurer Debbie Marshall said it would be no problem to generate those for the county board.
In 2006, the county board placed a referendum question on the ballot, asking, “Shall Piatt County be authorized to levy and collect a tax at a rate not to exceed .1 percent for the purpose of maintaining a county nursing home?” The question was approved 4,242 to 2,299 on Nov. 7 of that year.
The tax generates about $400,000 per year.