“That’s not really a solution. All you’re doing is taking processes that are probably inefficient and not working too well and jamming them up even further.”
He shared many statistics at the meeting explaining, for example, that the cost of salaries and benefits for county employees increases by about $4 million every year. He noted a one percent increase in employee salaries costs the county about $1 million.
Brown said in 2008, the county contributed about $600,000 to pensions of county employees. “In 2013, that number was about $4.8 million. This year it will be about $11.8 million that the county is contributing.”
(He said 11 different unions represent Northampton County employees.)
While revenues are flat, Brown indicated economic development is on the horizon that will bring more revenue --and jobs -- to the county.
That development will be coming in “within the next five to seven years. I do see our tax base eventually beginning to grow again.”
Brown said in 2013, Northampton County had to contribute $6.5 million to Gracedale, the county’s nursing home, to keep it operationally afloat.
He said the county contributed $5.5 million to Gracedale in 2012.
He explained that the problem is patient reimbursements received from Medicare and Medicaid are not enough to cover increasing expenses at the nursing home.
He said the county spent the last several months digging into Gracedale’s finances and operations, adding: “We’ve made significance progress.” He explained the county is developing a two-year projection of revenues and expenses for Gracedale that will be used to help decide the nursing home’s future.
He said Gracedale may never be profitable, but the county would like to get it to a break-even point.
Occupancy is growing in the nursing home, reported the executive. Nearly 670 beds are occupied, compared to a year ago when less than 630 were occupied.
Brown said Gracedale is “pretty well balanced” when about 650 beds are full.
He said the county home could house up to 688 residents, but indicated the county might have to add more staff, costing more money, if more beds are filled.
He noted “the building itself is a challenge” and said the county is working on ways to improve it.
Despite that, he said the nursing home staff provides great care to its residents. “It’s a phenomenal facility. We have all the incentive in the world to keep it operational.”