MAYVILLE - After months of wrangling within committees and the full County Legislature, a resolution to front taxpayer money toward the County Home passed Wednesday.
The fund balance appropriation, originally for $500,000 but bumped up to $1.36 million, will give the Dunkirk nursing facility a multi-million dollar boost in its revenue accounts.
The county's local share payment will be matched by an intergovernmental transfer grant - totaling roughly $3.6 million. Without the matching grant, the County Home would have depleted its fund balance by the end of 2013; its cash account would have ran dry even sooner.
IGT Funding Approved
"Keeping the County Home and keeping county taxpayers from having to subsidize it with local tax dollars is the right, fiscally responsible thing to do," said George Borrello, R-Irving.
"I think it's important here to do the right financial things, especially (since) we have an additional $10 million in fund balance that we did not anticipate during the 2012 budget preparations," added Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown.
Other legislators, too, took turns voicing their support for the resolution, including Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg, who initially said he would vote against it. However, after hearing from County Attorney Steve Abdella, who said the county should be able to recoup the payment should the home be sold, Erlandson said he would support the local share payment.
County Executive Greg Edwards said he was pleased to see the legislature by and large support the appropriation payment. He said as soon as the resolution hits his desk Thursday, he would sign it promptly.
"I've been a supporter of this technique of maximizing our tax dollars, and that's really what we're doing here," Edwards said, "because it's tax dollars we're using to fund this IGT. But we're getting double for our money by having federal dollars match dollar-for-dollar in our investment."
The county executive said with the County Home losing thousands of dollars on a daily basis, it came down to making a smart business choice for the county. Edwards has estimated the home loses roughly $11,000 a day.
"So, this is a business decision; a smart business decision," he said. "One that I supported all along, so I'm pleased to see the vast majority of legislators saw it that way and voted for it so it puts us in the positions to make the right decisions going forward and not to miss an opportunity to protect the taxpayers."
Support for the IGT payment, however, was not unanimous. Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point, said he was wary of appropriating funds out of the county's fund balance to pad the County Home.
"At this time I believe it is premature to fund the IGT," Horrigan said. "... I may very well vote to approve IGT in the future, but to spend taxpayer dollars now just to enhance the fund balance to the County Home, which is clearly in a solvent position to the end of the year, I think it's premature to do that so I will not be supporting this legislation."
Horrigan said he is hopeful a report, commissioned by an ad-hoc committee to study the County Home, would provide "real solutions" to reduce taxpayer subsidies of the home.
Other legislators to vote against the resolution were Robert Stewart, R-Ellington; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott; and P.J. Wendel, R-Lakewood.
After the meeting, Rose Conti - CSEA Unit 6300 president - said she was confident the resolution would pass the legislature. Conti, who announced she is retiring July 18, said the county payment was the smart choice to make, although she doesn't view the vote as a moral victory.
"I don't know if I really see it as a moral victory. I think it's the right thing for everybody," she said. "... You can't go down there without getting attached to the people that are there."
Last month, the resolution failed to pass the legislature's Human Services Committee and was tabled during an Audit and Control Committee meeting. The legislature, too, tabled the appropriation until a financial impact study of IGT funding levels could be completed.
Colleen Wright, County Home finance officer, delivered that report during an Audit and Control Committee meeting last week. The committee then amended the resolution to increase the appropriation by almost $900,000.
Edwards had a local share payment to the County Home in his 2012 budget; however, legislators were forced to cut the line-item due to property tax cap worries.
Due to reconciliations in the 2011 budget, nearly $10 million has been freed in the county's fund balance. Several legislators used that surplus as merit for the appropriation.
County officials, meanwhile, note that $10 million in fund balance usage has been scheduled in this year's budget.
Edwards has stated that the 2011 budget surplus will not effect next year's budget, which have entered its preliminary stages. The county executive estimates the county will face a $14 million budget shortfall in 2013.