Editor's Note: The following was read at a meeting of the Chautauqua County Legistature on Wednesday.
County Executive Edwards, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Chautauqua County Legislature,
I am a registered voter and resident of Chautauqua County. I live in Clymer, with Jane, my wife of 30 years, and our daughter, Sarah. Our son, Josh, and his wife reside in Lebanon, Ohio
I am here this evening to express my firm and complete support for the sale of the Chautauqua County Home. We, including you and the many resident taxpayers in Chautauqua County, have an excellent and welcome opportunity by allowing a taxpayer-subsidized business to be placed both in the hands of private sector health care professionals, and on the county tax roll - both places I believe it belongs.
Those providing support for continued county ownership of the home cite a report presented by the CGR that includes six cost-cutting and revenue enhancement recommendations, none of which in my opinion, provide concrete evidence of meaningful savings or sizeable increases in revenues.
For example, first, wages: The report states, $280,000 could be saved if a new deal was struck. Remember, we are currently at an impasse on a new labor contract.
Second, limits on benefits: Savings are projected near $650,000 annually if recognized, although the CGR report notes that existing contractual obligations will make any reductions difficult.
Third, electronic medical records: The report states a fully functional EMR system could net the home an annual savings of $500,000 to $650,000. However, according to Mr. Hellwig, the County Home administrator, "I find the projected cost savings of $500,000 to be fairly significantly overstated."
Fourth, attrition and "better use" of existing therapy staff: This is policy that should have been in place long before now, and under constant evaluation.
Fifth, payer mix: The CGR reports enhanced revenues of $425,000 from an improved payer mix. But, with 75 percent of residents on Medicaid, Mr. Hellwig states, "bringing in Medicare and private-pay residents would be difficult. When we're full, we're full."
Finally, the gas well: The home also could see a savings if a gas well on the property were completed, but how much is not known.
Another reason has surfaced since the release of the CGR report. "The cost of the County Home to each homeowner in Chautauqua County is $1.25 per month." Honestly and frankly, I don't care if the cost to each homeowner is $1.25 per year. Where taxpayer money is being spent needlessly, it needs to stop.
Now I happen to believe that you, members of the legislature, have to know that far more resident taxpayers in this county than not, support the sale. Some of you do not support the sale. I respect your position; but I believe, as elected officials, it is your responsibility, to convince a majority of resident taxpayers, to agree with you.
At this point, in this discussion, on this issue, you have failed to make your case. In fact, support for the sale of the home is gaining momentum. The village of Lakewood board has now joined the Ellicott Town Board in passing their resolutions in support of the sale by unanimous vote. The towns of Carroll and Kiantone have also passed such resolutions in support of the sale.
Each election cycle, the voting residents of Chautauqua County, most often at your request, hire each of you to become a part of this decision-making body that conducts business on behalf of Chautauqua County.
In doing so, we expect, as you have done, to become involved, informed on issues and engaged in debate, allowing you to then make sound decisions on behalf of us, the residents of Chautauqua County. At the forefront of each decision, I hope, is the best interest of the residents and taxpayers of Chautauqua County.
Members of the legislature; this is a tough decision, but I believe you know the right decision is the sale of the County Home. It is without a doubt, the will of the majority of the taxpaying residents of this county, the very people that elected each one of you, hired you, to do this job and in doing so, make these kind of tough decisions.
That decision: sell the County Home. Thank you.