A recent audit by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli detailed a deteriorating financial condition in Saratoga County due in part to increasing costs at a subsidized nursing home.
The audit released by the Comptroller’s office found that between January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012, Saratoga County’s general fund balance decreased 41 percent, from $24.7 million to $10.3 million.
The cause to blame? The increased costs of running Maplewood Manor – a subsidized nursing home facility.
The county put more than $13 million in surplus funds into the home to keep the facility afloat, decreasing the burden on local taxpayers.
However, Alan Grattidge, Chair of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, said the cost of running the nursing home has had an effect on other county services.
"As that money comes out of the general fund, we've had to make cuts to our road program, to our sherriff's department, we've had a hiring freeze going on now three years at the county," said Grattidge.
Knowing the unsustainability of Maplewood Manor, two years ago the county hired a consultant to weigh the home’s options. The services offered by the facility were considered vital, but the study found that the home could not keep operating in its current model.
In January, a Local Development Corporation was formed to facilitate the sale and privatization of the home.
"We can't carry them beyond next year without bankrupting the county," said County Administrator Spencer Helwig. "Part of the value of the LDC was the get the process underway and completed in the shortest time as possible so that we didn't continue to have to struggle to come up with the funds to underwrite the losses."
The Maplewood Manor LDC has a goal of selling the home in 2014. Once the facility is sold, the county will continue to pay legacy costs including employee health benefits.
"The county is going to be responsbile for...$24 million in legacy costs," said Helwig.
Grattidge said that the primary reason the home has become unsustainable is declining Medicaid reimbursements to pay for all of the state-mandated services offered at the home.
"This comes out of reimbursement rate of Medicaid just not keeping up with what it costs to run a county-run nursing home," said Grattidge.
Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties, said that the state’s 2011 property tax cap law, combined with the slow economic recovery, has made it more difficult for counties across New York to raise revenue to keep county-run nursing homes in operation. Acquario said that Saratoga County is not alone in its challenges.
"We at one point in time in New York had a high of 44 counties with nursing homes," said Acquario. "That was reduced by ten in a decade, and now it looks as if it's shrinking by another ten so in the next few years we will only have a couple-dozen counties in New York still in this business."
For more information on Comptroller DiNapoli’s audit of Saratoga County visit: