News Local/State

Coming To Champaign County April Ballot: Referendums To Sell And Raise Taxes For Nursing Home

Champaign County seal, displayed in the Champaign County Boardroom.

Seal of Champaign County, displayed in the County Boardroom at the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Champaign County voters will get a chance to say whether they want to raise their property tax rates to help the financially strapped county nursing home, or allow the county board to sell or otherwise dispose of the facility.

Champaign County Board members approved both questions for the April 4 ballot, during a more than four-hour special meeting on Tuesday night.

Champaign Democrat Pattsi Petrie says she doesn’t think anyone on the county board wants to lose the nursing home. But she joined a Republicans and a few other Democrats in concluding that a “Plan B” was needed, in case voters reject the tax hike.

“That home needs to stay here in the county,” said Petrie. “I don’t want to see it sold or I don’t want to see it disposed of. But we’re painting ourselves into a corner if we don’t put that option out there, and hear from the public.”

The board is looking for a way to help the nursing home as it deals with delays in both state Medicaid payments and the processing of Medicaid applications. Those delays have caused cash-flow problems that have put the nursing home about $3 million behind in paying its vendors.

Voters could conceivably approve both referendum questions, or neither.  And if voters approve the sale of the nursing home, it would still need approval by two-thirds of the county board to actually take place.

The property tax referendum would ask to raise the county property tax rate from its current 3.25 cents per $100 assess valuation to a maximum of ten cents.  The county board would be free to impose a lower amount.  County Administrator Rick Snider says the tax increase would bring in an additional $2.5 million a  year, and raise the annual tax on a $150,000 home by about $30.

The Champaign County Board voted unanimously against a third referendum proposal that would impose a new quarter cent facilities sales tax to help the nursing home and other county facilities. County board members said it was too much like the sales tax proposal that voters soundly defeated last November. They also noted that it could not be used directly in the area where the nursing home needed cash the most, such as for paying its vendors.