The county-owned Glendale Nursing Home operated at a loss of roughly $14.5 million in fiscal 2011, according to the results of an audit included in a municipal bond offering this month.
The amount lost was about $600,000 more than the nursing home was listed as losing for fiscal 2010 and was the largest loss recorded over a five-year period starting in 2007.
Expenses for the Glenville facility appeared to have dropped by about $2.2 million between 2007 and 2011, but it took in about $3.7 million less in total revenue, according to the report published this month by Munistat Services, the county's bond adviser.
County officials downplayed the report, claiming it doesn't accurately reflect the financial reality of Glendale, which they say is significantly better. But the county Legislature's lone Republican insists the figures included in the document are precise and indicative of the financial boondoggle posed by the nursing home.
“It is worse than I thought,” said James Buhrmaster, the Legislature's minority leader, after reading the report. “Our own people have said we have big numbers, but not this big.”
Buhrmaster said the losses further illustrate why the county shouldn't be in the nursing home business. He said the cost of providing 200 beds for county senior citizens isn't necessary, considering there are plenty of private companies where they can receive the same care.
“It would be understandable and even acceptable if we didn't have alternatives,” he said. “But we do.”
County spokesman Joe McQueen said the figure in the report is being taken out of context by critics of the nursing home. He acknowledged Glendale cost the county about $9.5 million last year, but said the $14.5 million figure cited in the report includes projections that aren't actual expenses.
“That's been pretty static,” he said of the nursing home's annual cost.
McQueen also refused to categorize the cost of operating Glendale as a loss. He said the nursing home reflects a commitment by the county to care for its elderly.
“We don't call it a loss; we call it an investment,” he said. “It's a decision by the county and by the Legislature to invest in this program.”
Buhrmaster sees it as a poor investment that is costing taxpayers when they can't afford the increases called for in the county budget.
He said taxpayers are being forced to cut back because of the economy and so should the county
“Why should the county be any different?” he said. “If our businesses and homeowners are struggling, we can't be doing business as usual.”
Meanwhile, the county's $44 million project to build a new, 200-bed nursing home continues to take shape on Hetcheltown Road. Steel framework for much of the structure has been erected in front of the old nursing home, and workers have started building several exterior walls.
The 18-month project is expected to wrap up sometime in late 2013, allowing crews to move forward with demolishing the old structure. McQueen said the new, energy-efficient facility will also bring a significant amount of savings to the county since it's replacing a patchwork of inefficient buildings, some dating back to the 1930s.
Buhrmaster wasn't convinced by this argument. He believes Glendale should be sold to a private operator, so taxpayers are no longer burdened with its operation.
“This [report] to me brings the point home clearer and clearer,” he said.