Legislators Prepare For ‘Yes,’ Or ‘No’ Vote

MAYVILLE – If resolutions to sell the Chautauqua County Nursing Home do not pass the full legislature next Wednesday, the home still requires funding.

This week, both the Human Services and Audit and Control committees heard a resolution to amend the 2013 budget to include additional Intergovernmental Transfer funds, also known as IGT funds. The resolution asked that $692,878 be transferred from the county’s unreserved fund balance as a local share contribution for the IGT program.

According to the resolution, to offset the losses from the County Home, $692,878 from the fund balance needs to be used, which will be matched with additional federal funds. This will total a projected $1.5 million in taxpayer money.

Legislators had previously voted to reduce the amount allotted for IGT funds. However, legislators at both committee meetings were assured that if the resolution was approved and the home was sold, the county would make the money back. According to the contract with potential purchaser William (Avi) Rothner of Altitude Health Services Inc, the money put into the IGT program from the county would be returned.

“If the sale of the County Home passes, this seems to me like the right thing to do, because the money is going to pull back into the county,” said Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown. “But, if the County Home does not sell, then again, we are subsidizing to a greater degree.”

He pointed out to members of the Audit and Control Committee that legislators had fought to not raise taxes while negotiating the 2013 budget. For this reason, legislators chose to reduce the amount of IGT funding initially proposed by County Executive Greg Edwards. In his budget proposal, Edwards called for $1.3 million in IGT funding which would have been matched by another $1.3 million of state and federal taxes. The legislature, however, reduced that amount by $250,000.

Legislators also learned Thursday that the County Home has a fund balance of roughly 25 percent of its revenue, while the county’s fund balance is between 2 and 3 percent of its total revenue. If the legislature chooses not to pass the resolution, the County Home would lose more money, but due to the fund balance it would not go negative.

“Whether we keep it or don’t keep it, we should fund it to the level that they need to operate, really, at a break-even point,” Nazzaro said. “This is a struggle for me. I want to fund it so it operates at a break-even point, but at the same time, you’re building up much higher fund balances than the county.”

On the other hand, George Borrello, R-Irving, said he saw the IGT funding as an investment for the county.

“This is one of the few situations where we can take $1 and get nearly $2 back,” he said. “From a pragmatic standpoint, understanding that they are all tax dollars, it is still an opportunity for us to get some of that money back to us.”

According to Edwards, more than $3.3 million will go to offset County Home losses this year.

“I brought this resolution for the very reason we are having this conversation right here today,” Edwards said. “I want everyone to recognize the decisions that the legislature has to make in regard to how we move forward with regard to the County Home. It’s something we have been working on for two years, analyzing what precisely was coming down the road, what our options and opportunities are.”

In the Human Services Committee, Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point, was the only legislator opposed to the IGT funding resolution. In the Audit and Control Committee, the resolution was passed unanimously. The resolution will be presented to the full legislature Wednesday, where it will be put to a roll-call vote.