WATERLOO — Black Hawk County won’t put Country View on the auction block.
Members of the county Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday against hiring a consulting firm to broker the potential sale of the county-owned nursing and mental health care facility north of Waterloo.
The decision raises the possibility of a larger-than-expected county property tax hike in the next fiscal year to keep the money-losing 134-bed nursing home afloat.
“I’m certainly disappointed that we’re not looking at this option,” said Supervisor Frank Magsamen, who had joined Linda Laylin in wanting to hire Chicago-based Marcus & Millichap to seek potential private-sector buyers.
“Definitely a lot of concerns because I don’t know what the plan is to go forward,” Magsamen said. “I would challenge our fellow supervisors to come up with a plan that sustains Country View, provides quality service to those individuals and helps control our property taxes.”
Supervisors Craig White, Chris Schwartz and Tom Little voted against hiring Marcus & Millichap.
“It’s an important safety net that needs to stay public,” said Schwartz, who suggested looking at other options to boost revenues or control costs. “I just want to see Country View stay as a public facility run by the county.”
Laylin urged her colleagues to reconsider.
“If there was an opportunity for the private sector to improve services out there … we should at least look at it,” she said. “We can always turn it down. The whole point is making sure we don’t have to close this facility.”
White said he would “dwell on it for the next week” and might consider calling for another vote on the broker’s contract.
“Looking at the big picture for this place, it’s been our responsibility for a long time to take care of those people,” he said. “It’s a service that’s needed, and I don’t think it’s being given properly anywhere else in the community to tell you the truth.”
The supervisors are expected to hold their annual budget hearing March 6 and had been looking at raising an additional $2 million in property taxes to subsidize Country View while they considered the sale.
Magsamen said the board should boost that increase to a “realistic figure of what it’s going to cost” based on the decision to keep Country View in the county’s control.
The current figure, which can be lowered before or during the budget hearing, calls for a $3.5 million, or 9.4 percent, increase in county tax askings next year. That includes $3 million for Country View and $500,000 for increases in other county operations.
Board members were tentatively expected to meet at 9 a.m. Thursday in special session to discuss Country View options.
Country View is one of just two county-owned nursing homes in Iowa, the other being in Dubuque County. Clients at the nursing home are primarily funded by Medicaid dollars, which are only covering about 80 percent of the cost of running Country View.