Butler County’s commissioners provided another cash injection to the county-run nursing home and paid a chunk of the new emergency radio system as part of the county’s final financial moves of 2018.
The county authorized a $350,000 payment to the the Butler County Care Facility, which also received a $100,000 payment from the county in October. That will help cover a $242,000 deficit at the facility and give it some breathing room, and its administrator said that could be the last infusion needed.
“The goal was to go into 2019 completely in the black,” she said. “We are not anticipating getting any more loans.”
More than $3 million was also approved toward paying for the $10 million emergency radio system, which was a significant piece of recent years’ budgets.
Those major moves came as the county approved a $102 million general fund budget, although it did not include a $2 million to the county’s rainy day fund, which has caused debate.
Commissioner Don Dixon said that although he was willing to approve the budget as is, he wants the annual deposit restored by year’s end.
“You’ve got 12 months to find $2 million and put it back in that account,” Dixon told Finance Director Tawana Keels.
Dixon said he would feel more comfortable having a rainy day fund balance in the $12 to $15 million range. In addition to the rainy day fund, the county has built its reserves up to about $50 million.
Keels told the Journal-News it will be challenging to find the extra money for the rainy day fund, which has about $10 million.
“That is going to be an uphill battle which will require participation and support by the elected officials, the department heads, the fiscal officers,” she said. “This is something we will have to do together.”
The county was hit with a 20.3 percent health insurance hike — the increase was originally estimated at 10 percent — that put pressure on the budget plan.
The Butler County Care Facility injection was another notable expense. Care Facility Administrator Jennifer Strickland said the facility has combed through the books for the last two years and figured out would it would take to make it completely whole financially.
She said the facility went without a business office manager for several months, so there were some things “lagging.” It has hired a larger accounting firm in an attempt to capture all of the reimbursements it is due.
A year ago, the facility needed a $425,000 subsidy, and in 2016 the commissioners had to loan it $225,000 so payroll could be met through the end of the year. At one time, the county nursing home owed the general fund $1.1 million, a debt the home partially repaid. However, it has continued to need regular infusions of cash as Medicaid rates, regulations and audits affect the bottom line.
As far the county radio system, its original price tag was $19.2 million for the infrastructure and all the radios police, firefighters and others carry, but the county was able to negotiate a $10 million deal for fewer radios.
The county issued $7 million in short-term notes a year ago — after paying about $3 million in cash to satisfy the bill — and will likely pay about $5 million in cash to cover the bulk of the notes and refinance the rest, according to Keels. She said the final financing is still be determined, but the refinanced notes should be fully paid next year when the county’s general fund debt rolls to zero.
The commissioners approved transferring $3.2 million into the radio fund from the sheriff’s board of prisoners and general funds last week.