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EDITORIAL: Should facility be free of levy support?

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New St. Croix Health Center Nursing Home Administrator Jack Williams seems to be on the right track.

In his report before the St. Croix County Health and Human Services Board Monday, Williams said it's his aim to keep the New Richmond-based facility operating well into the future. But he also pledged to fully evaluate the operation and see where additional expenses can be cut in order to make the nursing home self-sustaining.

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And if it doesn't make sense to build a new nursing home, or remodel the existing one, he's willing to recommend to the county that tough choices be made. He appears to indicate that he would recommend to close the facility if the numbers don't add up.

But with the report that the nursing home operation is on track to lose about $100,000 this year, one big question remains.

What level of red ink are St. Croix County Board members willing to stomach to keep the county-owned operation afloat?

Sure, the $1.5 million per year the facility was losing in recent times was a bit too much for most taxpayers to accept. But are county residents willing to pitch in a few dollars to retain the high-quality facility that has operated in New Richmond for decades?

Afterall, a strong majority of county voters recently voted in favor of a non-binding referendum stating that they supported the idea of spending tax revenues on nursing home operations.

Some county board members, however, seem convinced that nothing short of a self-sustaining nursing home will be acceptable. Others appear to think that some levy dollars should be available if expenses exceed revenues each year.

No one would argue that a budget-neutral operation would be ideal, but would the cuts required to erase the expected $100,000 deficit be too costly if the care residents receive is compromised.

Perhaps that's a question Health and Human Services Board members, and St. Croix County Board members, need to discuss in future meetings so the majority's intentions are clear.

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