By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — At this point in the budget process, Dunn County is facing a nearly $3.5 million budget deficit for 2016.
Tonya Kusmirek, Dunn County’s chief financial officer, reported on the state of the 2016 budget at the Dunn County Board’s executive committee meeting August 19.
Part of the budget shortfall is a nearly $1 million deficit for the county’s nursing home, The Neighbors of Dunn County, she said.
One option for dealing with the shortfall for The Neighbors would be a one-time transfer from the county’s general fund, Kusmirek said.
One reason for the deficit in the nursing home budget is that there are fewer private pay residents and more medical assistance residents, which accounts for less revenue, Kusmirek said.
Some residents are entering The Neighbors as private pay, but after their funds are used up, they then switch to Medicaid, resulting in a lower payment for the nursing home.
David Bartlett, county board supervisor from Boyceville, suggested that now might be the time for the county board to consider what to do in the future about deficits in the county’s nursing home budget.
The Neighbors suffered a loss of $755,000 in 2014, according to the audit report presented to the Dunn County Board at the July meeting.
Perhaps the county board should consider taking the issue to a referendum to ask the taxpayers in the county if they would be in favor of paying additional taxes to support the nursing home, Bartlett said.
The Neighbors has had an occupancy rate of slightly more than 92 percent, Kusmirek said.
Another option might include raising the private pay rate for The Neighbors to generate more revenue, she said.
The Neighbors already has a somewhat higher private pay rate than other nursing homes in the area, noted Paul DeLong, county board supervisor from Menomonie and chair of The Neighbors committee.
Bob Walter, county board supervisor from Menomonie, said that perhaps The Neighbors should consider decreasing the private pay rate in order to increase the occupancy.
Gaining more residents could offset the amount lost on the unoccupied beds, Walter said.
The Neighbors had expenses of $14.2 million for 2014, according to the financial report presented to the county board, and has an expense budget of $14.7 million for 2015.
As of December 31, 2014, the county’s governmental funds reported a combined ending fund balance of $24.5 million.
All county departments can also be asked to review their charges for services to see if any increases might be appropriate to help offset the budget shortfall, Kusmirek said.
For example, Dunn County does not charge a fee for use of county parks and could consider implementing a fee for using the county’s boat landings, she said.
Surrounding counties charge for the use of county parks, Kusmirek said.
Employing county staff to collect park fees would not save any money, Bartlett said.
Other counties implement an honor system where boat landing users, for example, pay a fee and then take a sticker for their vehicle, Mesmerism said.
If they are caught using the boat landing without having paid the fee, then they pay a fine, she said.
Other departments, such as the Department of Human Services and the Dunn County Highway Department, could be asked to use some of their reserves to fill in shortfalls in their budgets, Kusmirek said.
The highway department had an increase of $619,000 in reserves for 2014, according to the audit report.
The Dunn County Board approved a $74.5 million budget for 2015. The county board approved a budget of $72.3 million for 2014, and a budget of $69.2 million for 2013.