The author is an Albany County legislator representing areas of Selkirk, South Bethlehem, Glenmont and Feura Bush.
The fate of the Albany County Nursing Home is one of the most important decisions county government has faced in years. While legislators all feel a deep responsibility to provide care for the sick and elderly, we must also take into account the county’s precarious financial position and the tax burden the nursing home places on our residents.
The Albany County Nursing Home presently serves approximately 218 patients and employs more than 320. The building is in dire need of repair. The home is not run efficiently or managed properly. In recent years the county has commissioned numerous studies to determine the nursing home’s problems, and all the studies have reached the same basic findings. Until now, however, no concrete changes have been proposed.
We must face the fact that the home continues to be an enormous drain on county finances causing staggering deficits. In his annual report, the county comptroller has stated the figure to be over $140 million in the past decade. The county executive estimates the 2013 deficit alone to be $18 million, which is over 20 percent of the total tax levy. We must remember that these deficits are placed squarely on the backs of our taxpayers.
Because of the drain of the nursing home, other social service programs, especially those for our seniors, have had to be reduced or eliminated during economic times when the needs for those groups are growing. We have not been able to provide additional assistance to those seniors who want to stay in their homes but need some level of assistance. It is the classic case of “putting all our eggs in one basket.”
So what are our options? As things stand now we must choose between closure of the nursing home, receivership (which puts the facility under the control of New York state), continued county operation of the home with increasing deficits or leasing the facility as recommended by the county executive.