Chautauqua County Home workers start petition, request negotiations

The potential sale of the Chautauqua County Home has employees up in arms.

In an effort to negotiate against the sale of the nursing home, County Home employees started a petition Friday, underlining their desire to remain county employees and agreeing to wage and benefit concessions.

Furthermore, the petition indicates a decertification election (meaning workers would drop the union) if representatives fail to actively pursue negotiation of concessions with the county.

Addressed to Vince Horrigan, county executive, and CSEA, Local 1000 AFSCME, AFL-CIO CSEA Unit 6300, the petition had been signed by 171 employees as of Tuesday.

“The CSEA workforce at the Chautauqua County Home is clearly dedicated to county service and to the residents of the home,” said Lynn Miller, communications specialist for the CSEA union. “It is obvious that they also believe strongly, as CSEA does, that the two parties should negotiate separate terms and conditions of employment for employees of the home.”

The nursing home’s ownership will be decided by the County Legislature in the near future, beginning this month with a fourth vote on whether or not to remove the nursing facility from county ownership and place it into the hands of a private company.

The sale of the nursing home was voted down three times by the former legislature.

Last week, Horrigan announced VestraCare’s offer of $16 million plus $1 million in potential improvements for the County Home.

“It’s up to the legislature now,” Horrigan said Tuesday. “I don’t have any comments on the petition.”

In the 2014 county budget, the nursing home’s projected expenses are an estimated $20 million, compared with the projected revenue amount of $17.4 million. The difference of $2.6 million breaks down to more than $7,000 in daily losses, meaning the County Home would have to draw from its fund balance in order to pay for operating expenses.

A study performed by the Center for Governmental Research in 2012 presented county legislators with potential operational changes to reduce costs and increase revenue under county ownership.

According to the study, almost 80 percent of resident stays are paid for by Medicaid. These rates fall short of covering the increasing costs of public nursing homes costs affected by high benefit rates, such as the rising costs of health insurance and mandated retirement pension costs.

Furthermore, from 2013-15, significant annual deficits were expected to average as much as $3.5 million per year unless significant changes were made to reduce costs and increase revenues.

Horrigan said some of the suggested cost-saving initiatives had been implemented since 2012, but failed to yield significant results.

“We continue to see losses in the County Home, and continue to believe it belongs in the private sector,” Horrigan said on Monday. “We (the county and the union) just have different perspectives.”

Horrigan also said he spoke with representatives from other counties which have either already privatized or are in the process of privatizing their respective county-owned nursing homes.

“The more I do that, the more convinced I am that the decision to privatize is correct,” Horrigan said. “VestraCare is a good, quality nursing home operator.”

A special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight in the legislative chambers at the Gerace Office Building in Mayville. VestraCare representatives will explain the company’s latest offer.