First from McHenry County Board member Mike Walkup:
To clarify the Valley Hi situation.
Valley Hi was originally a nursing home that had been built in the 19th century at the site of a farm owned by the County.
By the late 20th century it had become a run down and decrepit building that looked like something out of a Steven King movie.
[I think Mike is missing the “poor farm,” which is what the three story building was called. The third floor, I’ve been told was used to nurse gangland victims back to health.
[By the time I was elected McHenry County Treasurer in 1996, there was a modern nursing home. I believe this is what Mike is remembering.
[Howard Nelig, the Administrator told me the pigs raised on the farm never had hams. I had to ask him what he was talking about three times before he told me that the hams went home with the County Board members on the Valley Hi Committee.
[After I lost the primary election for State Rep. in 2000, I sat at a County Fair booth that I had paid for before losing. A guy came up saying he had a farm about eight miles out of Woodstock on Kishwaukee Valley Road. He said he had been hired to dig a well at the nursing home. After he got paid a guy came out and told him he was the Chairman of the Valley Hi Committee and asked, “Where’s my share?” The farmer told him he had worked hard for his money and wasn’t going to give him any. The County Board member told him he would never get another county job..and he didn’t’]
In the general Fall election of 2002 the voters of McHenry County were asked if they wanted to approve a special tax levy to “build and staff a county nursing home”.
It passed by around 5000 votes out of more than 75,000 cast.
I think it is reasonable to assume that many voters were focused on the construction of a new building and may not have given much thought to the fact that they were authorizing an ongoing obligation for staffing and other expenses over and above what might be garnered from the state and federal governments.
For many years around $6 Million per year were collected.
The original bonds were paid off.
Due to increased reliance on Medicare and private pay, however, this entire figure did not need to be used.
Subsequently the amount was lowered to $4.5 Million and then to $3 Million while I was on the VH Operating Board.
Annual deficits had been running around $500K until this past year when it was in the red about $1 Million due mostly to slow pay by the state.
Due to the fact that the amounts collected exceeded the operating deficits, the cash reserve climbed steadily to it’s present level of around $40 Million.
Currently there are plans in the private sector to build a couple of new facilities that are associated with local hospitals.
The Valley Hi building is not located near any hospitals, owing to the decision to use land already owned by the county to build the new facility rather than looking at other options.(This same logic drove the re-location of the Dept of Transportation, which is now complaining that it needs another facility in the Southeast quadrant of the county were more of the county road mileage is located).
Current trends in the nursing home industry are to marry the nursing home to existing hospitals so patients can be easily moved back and forth.
(This may spell the eventual demise of the free standing nursing home).
If those are approved and built, it will lower, and could eliminate, the Medicare and private pay components of Valley Hi.
Valley Hi loses money on each Medicaid bed.
Due to one of the untended consequences of the PTELL legislation (tax caps), we cannot recapture any levy amount that has been given up without going back to the voters.
Therefore, each time we reduce the levy, we are stuck with that, plus any cost of living increases.
The Democrats in Springfield are apparently wanting to let local governments twist slowly in the wind over PTELL restrictions that were passed by the GOP when they briefly had control of the legislature in the 90’s.
I agree with the PTELL restrictions when applied to local government levies, which are purely discretionary with the local government bodies, but where the voters have expressly approved a specific amount of a levy, it doesn’t make sense not to allow the local government to move the levy amount up and down as needed within that figure.
Otherwise what you get is government stockpiling of the levy collection and/or embarking on projects not originally contemplated just to use it up.
As such, PTELL winds up costing the taxpayers more rather than saving them money.
Comments on what the readers here think are welcome.
We will be voting on the overall budget, including the Valley Hi component, at the next County Board meeting the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
2014 District 1 GOP Primary Election County Board candidate David M. Stieper then wrote:
Thank you for the history and explanation.
Are you saying the construction bond and maintenance or Staffing bond were part of the same debt instrument and incorporated into a single tax levy?
My understanding is the construction bond was retired and the structure completed without a reduction in the Valley Hi tax levy?
Am I correct in this analysis and if so, this makes no sense? If I am incorrect, please explain?
Also, what was the date for the expiration of the maintenance bond assuming one was procured or was this just a levy.
Also, given your analysis of the future of nursing home industry in McHenry County which sounds bleak for Valley Hi because it is not located next to a hospital, why consider paying money for any capital improvements.
Isn’t it better to discuss now an exit strategy and returning the care of our elderly back to the private sector where it belongs and where local government can gain some tax revenue?
I’ll have to get you that information Dave.
Yes, the long term prospects may not be good.
I think we may be sitting on a White Elephant here.
The problem is that we have now invested substantially in a nice building so what do you do with that?
Trying to develop infrastructure on a site just because you happen to own the underlying land is not a good idea.
Location, location, location.