2013-08-22 / Front Page

MCF seeking millage

County approves facility ballot language for up to 1.5 mils

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners has approved millage language for the Schoolcraft County Medical Care Facility. Residents will vote on the millage, which requests up to 1.5 mils for the facility’s operations and maintenance, in November.

The millage request comes nearly two months after the financial troubles of the MCF were revealed to the public. At that time, the facility’s then-administrator, Jerry Hubbard, who has since resigned his post to take a position in Marquette, informed the board that the MCF would likely be out of money by the end of August.

That estimate has since changed to the end of Oct., with Hubbard citing an increased census as the reason for the facility’s ability to stay open. The facility may still need the financial assistance of the county, however, from that point in time until after the millage, if passed, takes effect.

According to Commissioner Dan LaFoille, the millage equates to $1.50 per $1,000 of residents’ taxable, real and personal property values for 5 years – from Dec. 1, 2013 until Nov. 30 2018. The millage is expected to raise $509,077 in the first year it’s levied.

Commissioner Craig Reiter questioned Hubbard about the amount being sought after by the facility.

“We looked at what our needs could possibly be, worst case, should census be 73,” Hubbard said. “The picture has changed since we first had these discussions.”

Despite an uptick in census numbers – 78 beds were full at the time of the meeting, Hubbard explained the MCF board was in favor of the 1.5 millage request because it correlates with the maximum amount the facility could levy on residents under its “Maintenance of Effort” millage. This millage, approved by voters in the late 1980s, has one year remaining and can go as high as 2 mils.

According to County Treasurer Julie Roscioli, there is a maximum that a private nursing home can charge for costs, and since county facility care costs are usually higher, the state bills Schoolcraft County each month for 45 percent of the difference between the private nursing homecare costs and the county facility care costs. The millage is used to pay this bill.

Currently, the MOE millage is only being levied at .5 mils. According to LaFoille, the county plans on reducing the assessment amount to .25, which would mean county residents would be paying a total of 1.75 mils to the facility for the MOE and new millage, if approved.

LaFoille added the county could use the money collected from the new millage to pay itself back for any money it may lend to the facility between now and when it is passed. He also noted the county board has a good track record for not assessing more than what is needed, and will reduce the amount levied on residents if the MCF begins to show a “strong” fund balance.

“We have a track record of watching that closely and doing the right thing,” he said.

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