Onondaga County Executive Joanne Mahoney is proposing some bold plans to address the challenges ahead.
"The tone was good, I think it was hopeful," said Democratic Legislator Tom Buckel. A hopeful, but realistic, tone to her 4th State of the County address, where she unveiled some big changes.
"I would like the make the important announcement, that we are entering into negotiations with Upstate Medical University to take over operations of the Van Duyn Home and Hospital," said Mahoney.
Upstate says it's on board and is ready to take the reigns, calling it a natural partnership. "The ability to align our research, with what is going on in the Van Duyn campus, makes great sense for us," said Upstate President David Smith.
Recently, Van Duyn has been running into financial trouble. Since 2005, cuts in medicaid reimbursements have forced the nursing home to dip into reserve accounts. It could soon become a large burden on taxpayers, which is why the idea of selling it came into play.
"County nursing homes in general have not had a rate increase since the 1980's so we are running Van Duyn in a way where care was excellent, but it was a strain to the county taxpayer," said Deputy County Executive of Human Services Ann Rooney.
Rooney says the move could save the county upwards of $4-million a year. Van Duyn provides care for 500 people, and employs 600. The county expects the staff would stay in place.
"This sounds like a really interesting opportunity because it gives Upstate a research opportunity, it gives us someone to take over the facility that needs the help and it gives the patients the greatest experts and the greatest opportunities for care," said Buckel.
The county will negotiate with Upstate over the next 3 months. If all goes well, Van Duyn could be sold, and under the new ownership within 12 to 18 months. The state health department would also need to approve the change.
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney delivered her State of the County address tonight, with a big focus on cutting spending.
Mahoney talked about consolidation in local governments, spending cuts at the state level, and how schools districts are dealing with budget problems.
The speech was held in the auditorium of West Genesee High School. Mahoney's office says the location was chosen to highlight a recent agreement between the district and the staff to accept a pay freeze to help balance the budget and avoid layoffs.
As for consolidation, Mahoney mentioned recent votes to increase the size of government, and a plan for Salina and Geddes to share a comptroller. Mahoney also talked about cooperation with the city of Syracuse. During her state of the city speech, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner talked about how cooperation with Onondaga County and consolidating some services have saved taxpayers money.
Mahoney also announced future plans for the Save the Rain program. In 2011, the county hopes to implement no fewer than 50 Green Infrastructure Projects to help return rain water and snow melt to the ground instead of the sewer system. Included in the plan is a 60,000 square foot green roof on top of the Onondaga County Convention Center.
The ice for the hockey rink in the War Memorial will also be a green project. The County hopes to implement a water reuse system that will allow the War Memorial to use captured rain water for heating, cooling, and making the ice.
Last fall, Mahoney said the county was facing a $30 million budget shortfall in 2012. At the time, she told CNY Central she will "make changes as necessary to keep Onondaga County on firm financial footing."
In October, Mahoney vetoed the legislature's plan to use $12 million from the fund balance, or 'rainy day fund,' to reduce property taxes. She also vetoed the sale of the Sheriff's department's Air-1 helicopter , the county-wide real property tax increase and an increase in the reserve for bonded debt.
For the first time in county history, the address was webcast live on Onondaga County's website .
You can read the full text of the speech by clicking here.
Caitlin Nuclo was at tonight's address. She'll have much more on the speech, coming up on NBC3 and CBS5 News at 11:00.