ELECTION 2020: Officials say Pioneer Place levy needed to confront financial woes

The Pioneer Place Board of Directors hopes voters will give a new tax levy a green light in November. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons)

VALE – Pioneer Place needs a little help from voters.

The board of the skilled nursing and assisted living and rehabilitation facility hopes voters will approve a new tax on the November ballot to improve its long-term financial outlook.

“At some point, we just felt like we needed to do this because it would give us, or make us feel a little better, with this additional revenue stream coming in,” said John Nalivka, Pioneer Place board chair.

The proposed tax rate would be 47.74 cents per $1,000 of assessed value beginning in 2021.

The levy would raise about $276,000 a year and enable Pioneer Place to cover its expenses, which continue to climb.

The total operating expenses budgeted at Pioneer Place this year is $4.58 million.

During the last fiscal year – 2019 – Nalivka said Pioneer Place pulled in $3.9 million in revenue but expenses came to $4.4 million. That left the facility with a $460,000 loss.

Pioneer Place is a government entity and a five-member board of local residents oversees the facility.

Besides Nalivka, others on the board are Dennis Buttice, Karlene Keller, Kerri Wenger and Cathy Judy. 

Pioneer Place collects property taxes now, but that can only be used to pay off the loan to build the facility.

While Pioneer Place did receive some Covid relief from the federal government, that money isn’t what sustains the facility, said Nalivka.

“The key to any nursing home or assisted living facility is the census, or number of residents,” said Nalivka.

As of Monday, Pioneer Place served 24 people in its assisting living section and 22 in its skilled nursing division. 

Pioneer Nursing Home Health District was created in 1975 and in the 1990s local voters approved a bond measure that financed the construction of the facility. That current bond – 57 cents per $1,000 of value – will be paid off in two years and that tax would no longer be collected.

Pioneer Place employs between 70 to 80 people with an annual payroll of about $2.3 million.

The facility is more than 20 years old and requires extensive renovation work, said Nalivka.

Nalivka said the facility needs a new vent in its kitchen and must buy a back-up generator. The facility must also navigate rising costs from state and federal regulations and labor.

Nalivka said the board decided on the new tax levy by reviewing end-of-year net income for the facility over a span of several years.

“We all understand that at some point tax levy after tax levy, pretty soon that gets old. But we felt like the average, 47 cents per 1,000, wouldn’t be overwhelming. It gives us a financial cushion looking over the long term,” said Nalivka.

Nalivka said if the tax levy doesn’t pass, Pioneer Place won’t close but a consistent lack of funds will impact the facility.

“We are not going to shut down by any means, I don’t think. There is nothing you can give up in terms of quality of care. So, you look at places where you can minimize your costs and your biggest cost is labor,” said Nalivka.

Nalivka said the board is aware the new tax rate isn’t “an easy ask.”

“We understand the financial situation of a lot of people who are retired and on fixed incomes. This is not a rich area,” said Nalivka.

Nalivka said the fact the current bond will be paid within two years is also important for voters to remember.

“The tax we are proposing is also half of that,” said Nalivka. Chris Monroe, Pioneer Place administrator, said voter approval will ensure the facility remains in the community.

“It is a service that is definitely needed and we are the only ones providing that service. If we are not here people will have to go to Boise or somewhere else to get the care they need,” said Monroe.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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