Those looking for a saving grace with the financially troubled Chautauqua County Home, keep looking.
A financial viability report given last week by the Center for Governmental Research provides no specific suggestions on how to reduce ballooning operating costs, other than to say revenues need to be enhanced and cutbacks sought.
As County Executive Greg Edwards has already pointed out, a similar if not identical report was commissioned three years ago by the legislature.
Same report, same recommendations, no realistic way to achieve them.
The taxpayer-funded $80,000 report, compiled at the behest of a good-intentioned ad hoc committee, simply does not provide any new insights on how to stop the county-owned facility from hemorrhaging cash.
The big issues are the continually increasing salaries and benefits of County Home workers. The report recommends limits be placed on wages and fringe benefits to halt future increases. Although the county employee union is waging a public relations campaign to "save our county home," in practical terms, the CSEA and the county are at the impasse in contract talks, with no word on whether any concessions are even currently on the table.
Don Pryor of CGR, author of the study, said $2.3 million in savings could be accrued annually if new technology is implemented at the home and concessions are reached with the union.
However, even if all those savings recommended in the report are somehow achieved, the county will continue to be forced to fork over millions of taxpayer dollars every year to get matching federal dollars to subsidize the home.
Those same local tax dollars, $14 million over the last five years, have helped the home avoid massive annual deficits. That means a county facility, which is supposed to generate its own revenue to be self-supporting, is routinely relying on help from property taxpayers to stay solvent.
That is a financial burden local property owners should not have to bear.
Edwards has it right: Sell the County Home to a reputable buyer who will pay property taxes all the while providing the same level of care to its residents. The facility will remain open, a union will exist, and debts will be paid off.
While revenues from any transaction will likely not be as significant as the county executive is touting, simply ridding the county of the financial burden is reason enough to approve the sale.
If only county legislators would actually listen to their constituents, we believe they would hear overwhelming support to stop wasting their hard-earned tax dollars on a money pit by selling the County Home. The new private sector owner would be freed from the constraints that prevent the county-owned facility from offering a broader list of services and levels of care to residents- thus ensuring a healthy and more financially secure future for the nursing home.