Friday, July 1, 2011

Blaine Manor predicts $724K deficit

Commissioners approve senior facility budget

Blaine Manor residents enjoy lunch with staff on Wednesday afternoon. County commissioners approved Blaine Manorís fiscal 2012 budget during a hearing Tuesday, despite an estimated $724,000 in losses. Photo by David N. Seelig

The BlainCounty Commission approved a Blaine Manor budget Tuesday that projects a nearly $724,000 operating loss for fiscal 2012.

The projected loss is far above the roughly $630,000 loss that the commissioners anticipated when setting the senior care facility's levy amount last year.

However, Blaine Manor's finance director, Stephanie Jaskowski, said during her budget request Tuesday that the estimate is more of a worst-case scenario, and she didn't expect the losses to reach that number.

"Historically, [our loss] has been less than that," she said. "This is on the conservative side."

Jaskowski pointed out that she estimated a loss of $790,698 for fiscal 2011, but the year-to-date loss of $217,421 is less than a third of that. She predicted that the manor's actual 2012 loss would range from $600,000 to $625,000.

The manor's expenses are expected to rise by 4 percent this year to just over $2.5 million. Jaskowski said the rise is due in part to an increase in gasoline and food prices, which have gone up an estimated 5 percent from last year.

Salaries and benefits make up 80 percent of the manor's budget. Jaskowski requested—and received—a 2 percent merit raise to maintain the "very low" turnover of manor staff.

When questioned by Commissioner Larry Schoen, Jaskowski said the raises would be awarded based on performance, and not all employees would receive the same amount.

The manor has also requested more than $25,000 in capital improvements, mostly for replacement equipment.

Part of this year's capital improvement request is for a blanket-warming cabinet, which Jaskowski said is valuable when dealing with dementia patients.

"Being able to comfort them with a warm blanket just calms them down," she said. "It gets away from the chemical drugs we'd use otherwise."

An additional $40,000 has been set aside from the county's building and grounds budget to replace the building's sidewalk, upgrade its heating system and make other improvements. County Director of Operations Char Nelson said the heating system dates from the 1950s, and when parts break, they cannot be replaced.

Blaine Manor's operational losses stem from the difference between average patient cost and the facility's room rate, which it plans to raise to $230 a day from the current $222.

According to the Met Life Mature Market Institute, the 2010 average daily rate for a private room in senior-care centers in Boise was $248.

The loss at Blaine Manor has been subsidized by Blaine County since the manor separated from St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center in 2000. County voters approved a $1.9 million property tax levy last year to fund the manor while reducing county deficit spending until a private senior care facility, the Croy Canyon Ranch west of Hailey, can be built.

< Kathleen Eder, executive director of the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation, said the foundation has raised nearly $3.6 million of the $13.5 million needed for the facility.

"It's all good. It's coming along," Eder said. "We just need to get as many donations as we can."

Eder said the foundation is meeting with major donors and trying to raise public awareness. She declined to confirm whether fundraising is on track to enable the facility to open as scheduled in January 2014, but said she would have more information in late summer or early fall.

"Every day I get things online about people making major gifts to causes they believe in," she said. "I believe those people are out there for us."

Manor budget highlights

High points of the manor's 2012 budget projections:

- $1.8 million in revenue, up 9.9 percent from 2011

- $2.5 million in expenses, up 3.9 percent from 2011

- $723,807 deficit, down 8.5 percent from 2011

- Room rate is $230 per resident per day, up from $222 in 2011

Other budget news

The Blaine County commissioners requested a slight bump in funding Tuesday, raising their travel and per-diem budgets by a total of $6,000. County Clerk JoLynn Drage said most of the increase funds Commissioner Larry Schoen's trip to the National Association of Counties conference in Washington, D.C.

Schoen said he believes attending the conference is in line with the county's fiscal priorities as it enables him to lobby congressional representatives for state and local funding. However, he said, he understands the expense is significant.

"It's really up to the board whether we feel this is worthwhile," he said. "It's an investment decision."

Commissioner Tom Bowman said he was willing to entertain the request for the moment, but requested that expenses for the conference receive a separate line item so the exact amount can be more easily determined.

Other major budget requests came from the Building and Grounds, and Road and Bridge departments.

County Director of Operations Char Nelson requested $200,000 to replace the roof on the county courthouse and repair snow and ice damage to the historic building. The roof was last replaced in 1968. She also requested $61,000 to fix heating and cooling issues in the county annex building, funding that will be supplemented by federal grants.

Road and Bridge requested $80,000 to replace four county bridges. Road manager Tom Duffy also requested authority to use the department's reserve funding to purchase two new road graders, roughly $235,000, and repair roads in the south valley that have been damaged by repeated grading.

"We have carried a large reserve while we have roads that are deteriorating and equipment that is out of date," Nelson said.

Katherine Wutz:

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