If privatizing McHenry County’s Valley Hi Nursing Home is a cheaper and more efficient way to run the facility, we’re all for it.
But the taxpayers must have a say in this decision because they’ve put money into the nursing home.
Valley Hi recently has become a controversial topic with the McHenry County Board after a Request for Qualifications was sent out to ask firms to send the county their qualifications to lease the county-owned nursing home. RFQs are issued routinely and typically don’t go before the board for approval.
Requiring board approval of every RFQ would make getting things done more complicated than needed. It also could stifle out-of-the-box thinking by county employees.
It’s OK that the RFQ was sent out before coming before the board. Submitting an RFQ is akin here to opening the door to discussion. It is simply collecting information that the County Board could later use in making a decision.
It is not a final decision. Before any final decisions are made, County Board members and residents need to be involved in the process.
Voters in 2002 approved a tax increase referendum to build the nursing home. Because taxpayers decided to invest in Valley Hi, they should get to decide any major changes to the way Valley Hi is managed or run the same way – by referendum.
They also should have a say in the decision because property tax money goes toward the nursing home, which has millions saved in reserves.
The County Board tried to do away with Valley Hi’s levy in 2016.
It had been suspended the previous fiscal year because of its large fund balance. The nursing home has between $30 million and $40 million in cash reserves, which could fund its operations for several years, County Board Chairman Jack Franks has said.
If taxpayers could save money or if inefficiencies could be eliminated from privatizing Valley Hi without reducing the quality of service that provides to residents, then it’s something the County Board should consider. But the taxpayers who paid for it should have the final say by way of the ballot box.
The County Board – and ultimately voters – must consider the people Valley Hi serves and make sure that if the home is privatized, it still provides care for residents who need or have Medicaid assistance and Medicare.
If any changes do happen to the nursing home, we hope the level of care for the residents remains the same, and the changes are approved by voter referendum.