WATERLOO — A Black Hawk County-owned nursing and mental health care center continues to hemorrhage red ink.
County Finance Director Susan Deaton said Country View is losing $68,000 a month and is on pace to exhaust most of its remaining cash reserves sometime this summer.
“Our cash flow situation … is going to become an issue very soon,” Deaton told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday during a work session to discuss the center’s struggling financial condition.
“We are going to run out of funds in this fiscal year,” Deaton said. “Next year we’re going to need to make some decisions about how we’re going to fund Country View going forward in the future.”
Country View, one of just two county-run care centers in Iowa, is licensed as a 134-bed nursing home and 34-bed intermediate care facility for the intellectually disabled. It has 171 employees.
County officials have been struggling with losses at Country View for many years, noting the center relies almost exclusively on Medicaid-funded clients, has higher-than-average personnel costs and takes on hard-to-place clients who have been turned away by private care centers.
“We get referrals from all four corners of the state,” said Country View Administrator Dennis Coleman. “We’re thought of as a mental health facility, which we are not, but we will take people that other nursing facilities will not.”
Faced with annual increases in property taxes to keep Country View solvent, it was placed in its own “enterprise fund” separate from the county general fund in 2011. But the tax dollars transferred in to serve as the fund balance have dwindled from a high of $4.8 million to just $1.1 million due to annual operating losses.
Efforts to stem the losses this year by boosting the number of residents and cutting use of outside staffing agencies failed.
Country View’s leaders continue to work with Brighton Consulting Group, hired in 2014 to provide financial advice to the facility, and will meet Friday with the state’s other county-run nursing home, Sunnycrest in Dubuque, to share ideas.
Coleman said Country View could be in line to receive up to $1.3 million in federal intergovernmental transfers starting in 2017 for things like technology updates, building improvements and education. But rules for those dollars are still pending.
County officials in the past have discussed attempting to sell, privatize or even close Country View due to its financial liability but have chosen to maintain the status quo and avoid uprooting residents who call it home.
“You have a special population out there that we’re serving,” said board chair Linda Laylin.
Assistant Country View Administrator Genevieve Shafer said “a significant portion of our population have been there all of their adult lives.”
Longtime Supervisor Craig White, who has been one of Country View’s most ardent supporters, bemoaned funding cuts that have already cut into residents’ quality-of-life and ability to attend community events.
“It’s just sad,” White said. “These people are already under a lot of restrictions. You used to see them out at ball games and such, but now you hardly see them out during the summer.”
The supervisors expect the future of Country View to be one of the most difficult issues in the upcoming budget deliberations for the next fiscal year.