WATERLOO — Black Hawk County officials are looking into selling Country View.
But the county Board of Supervisors has tentatively agreed to raise property taxes by $2 million next year to keep the county-owned nursing home open should a sale lose support or not happen quickly enough.
The supervisors met Thursday to hear from a national commercial real estate broker specializing in selling senior housing and long-term care centers.
Ryan Fleming, of Marcus & Millichap’s Chicago office, walked through how the firm could help the county seek proposals, both locally and nationally, and market Country View for sale.
Country View, home to 134 nursing and mental health care clients, has been losing money in recent years. But Fleming said there’s still a market from larger senior care providers interested in acquiring new assets.
“Most of the public homes are losing money, most of them significant,” Fleming said. “I’m assuming if I’m here it’s not because you’re making tons of money in the home and it’s full and everything’s hunky dory.”
Fleming said major care providers with multiple nursing facilities are more skilled at Medicaid reimbursement and can realize economies of scale.
“The mom and pops — the owners that have one, two or three assets — are getting unbelievably squeezed right now, as you guys know,” he said. “… If a person has eight assets in the area, they only pay one executive director. The food they buy is at a better cost.”
Fleming said the supervisors could choose to put stipulations on a sale, such as retaining employees or agreeing to keep Country View open for a certain time frame, but noted such restrictions could impact interest in the center.
While the supervisors took no action on whether to retain a broker or pursue a sale, several board members expressed interest in moving forward.
“I think it’s something we should have considered earlier,” said Supervisor Linda Laylin.
Country View has been a major focus of the supervisors’ efforts to set a budget for the fiscal year staring July 1. While the nursing home is an enterprise operation, expected to support itself with client revenues and Medicaid, the county is tapping its cash reserves this year for $2 million to cover the losses.
Finance Director Susan Deaton projects Country View will run a $2 million deficit in the next fiscal year, which could be larger if County Social Services pulls back a portion of its $1 million contribution to the facility.
Board members had been looking at an overall $500,000, or 1.3 percent, increase in overall property tax collection to support next year’s budget, not including funding for Country View.
Board members voted 4-1 Thursday to add $2 million in taxes to support Country View next year but also to use $500,000 in debt service reserves to offset a portion of the overall increase.
Supervisor Tom Little voted against the measure after suggesting the use of the debt service reserves was “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The net $2 million, or 5.3 percent, property tax hike will be part of the overall budget tentatively slated for a public hearing March 6. Funding for Country View is contingent on the budget being approved.
No time frame was placed on whether to pursue a contract with Marcus & Millichap to begin a sale process for Country View.
Meanwhile, the supervisors voted unanimously to appoint Carol Laurie as interim administrator of Country View. Laurie, the director of health services, will replace administrator Dennis Coleman and assistant administrator Genevieve Shafer, who are both resigning this month.