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by Patty Cheffey
The Marion County Commission expressed their support for the tax increase proposal sought by Maple Lawn Nursing Home, the only county nursing home in Marion County.
Jesse Soondrum, nursing home admininstrator, and Lynn Blickhan, director of accounting, were present at Monday’s meeting to ask for the county’s support, not only verbally, but in helping get the word out about the seriousness of the need for more funding.
Also Monday, the commissioners cleared up information about ARPA funds to Douglass Community Services and heard reports.
According to Soondrum, Maple Lawn is asking for a 12 cent increase, from 13 cents to 25 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The 13 cent tax was set in the 1980s. Last year the nursing home had asked for a 35 cent tax increase.
“Last time it didn’t pass even though 35 cents is what other counties are getting,” he said. “This time we are sounding the alarms.”
Soondrum noted among the items which are in trouble at the nursing home is the fire alarm system which is outdated and cannot be repaired as no parts are available. In addition, many medical supplies and costs have increased.
“We barely made it through 2022 without going into our reserves, but I don’t think that will be the case this year,” he said.
Staffing issues are part of the problem, Soondrum said as the nursing home is not willing to compromise their standard of care to fill all their rooms.
“If we could do that (fill all available rooms), we would be in good shape,” Soondrum said, noting Maple Lawn is the only nursing home that gets involved in the community too. “We are designing our care to be for the families and for the community,”
The current 13 cents per $100 assessed valuation is bringing in about $770,000 a year for Maple Lawn, and the requested 25 cents will increase that by about 93 percent.
Currently Medicaid only reimburses the nursing home $173 per patient per day, but the home is spending around $220 per day to care for those patients.
“We are not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,” said Blickhan in expressing the desperate need for more cash for the nursing home to stay operational. “We’re just trying to be honest with people.
“Maple Lawn is in the bottom four of county nursing homes in the state for taxes,” she added.
In other business, the commissioners met with Cindy Hultz with the Mark Twain Regional Council of Government, who explained why the county appears to be the only way paying anything towards the Douglass Community Center’s new facility.
“The CDBG requires you to spend all your cash funds first, and the county is the only ones with cash in the game,” she said.
Douglass has received a $1 million grant through USDA, but those funds won’t be spent until Douglass gets back bids on the project.
“And we can’t put it out for bids until the engineering work is paid for,” Hultz said, noting that is where the county’s money is being spent
Hultz added it was agreed by the engineering firm that they would only be paid up to $134,400 until bids would be let for the project. The county is closing in on that amount.
The commissioners also heard from Teya Stice, improvement coordinator, who said the floor tiling for the Palmyra Courthouse will be selected and the installation date scheduled this week.
She also noted she had received a bid for the refinishing of the rest of the chairs in the Palmyra Courthouse, but it was tabled.
Mike Schaefer, highway supervisor, reported the waste oil furnace is on its last leg, but the department had hopefully patched it to get through the winter.
The commissioners advised him to go ahead and check out costs for a replacement just in case.
Commissioners also met with Chris Goclan with Woody’s Municipal Supply Company, who just introduced himself and the business, and with Chariton Valley for an update on the fiber optic work in the county.