Restorium funding a contentious issue


Staff writer

BONNERS FERRY — Increasing room rates at the Boundary County Restorium may be the answer to reducing the county’s subsidy to the Restorium.

Boundary County Commissioners are proposing a 1.05 percent increase for new and current residents this October and again next October.

County residents raised multiple concerns regarding the Restorium during the inaugural commissioner Town Hall meeting on July 25.

A contentious concern was that another entity would take over operation of the Restorium, particularly Valley Vista, which performed the financial audit on the Restorium.

“We are not going to do that to the Restorium,” said Walt Kirby, Boundary County Commissioner. “We will not sell, lease or bring in other people to run it. That is out of the question. I’m committed that the county run the Restorium.”

However, the Restorium has run in the red since the beginning, said Commissioner Dan Dinning. The county provides a subsidy to the Restorium through tax payer levy funds.

“Just because they stay within the budget, the Restorium is operating at a loss because of the county subsidizing,” said Kirby.

This budget year, the Restorium received $312,146 from property taxes to assist in balancing its $1.069 million budget.

Of $100,000 of assessed value, property tax owners pay $38 to the Restorium, said Restorium Advisory Board chair Larry Dirks.

“The Restorium is very well run...a great atmosphere,” said Steve Tanner. “However, it is not the proper role of government to house anyone. Family is responsible for taking care of the elderly, not the state.”

“It needs to be sold. A private entity would be paying taxes and operating in a profit. It operates more efficiently in the private sector,” Tanner said.

Restorium administrator Karlene Magee declined to comment on the issues raised at the Town Hall meeting.

The Restorium is home to 31 residents with 35 rooms available. The number of residents has increased since 2007, when Magee became administrator. Residents don’t have to be Boundary County residents to live at the Restorium. All but one of the residents are Boundary County residents.

More than 75 percent of people in attendance at the Town Hall meeting, including all three county commissioners, have known a friend, family member or neighbor who has stayed at the Restorium.

“This is our community, our civic and moral responsibility to take care of our senior citizens,” said Linda Hall. “I’d be willing to pay extra taxes to take care of citizens who took care of us.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to have people in the Restorium paying 1950s prices for 2013 services,” said Kirby. “The county is paying a share to keep it running. The residents need to pay their share.”

In 2004, small rooms rented for $845 per month and large rooms $1,097. In 2012, the small rooms rented for $1,351 per month and large rooms $1,752. The difference between a small and large room is primarily an extra closet.

The proposed increase would increase small room rates for current residents from $1,351 to $1,418.55 per month this October and then $1,489.55 next October. Large rooms for current residents would increase to $1,839.60 this October and $1,931.58 next October.

New residents room rates would be $2,500 this October and $2,625 next October, with no distinction between small and large rooms.

Even if all the residents paid $2,500 per month, the county would still have to subsidize the Restorium with about, $75,000 said Kirby. Kirby expounded that he’d be happy to write a check for $75,000 instead of over $300,000.

A public hearing on the proposed rate increases is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 19 at 1:30 p.m. in the Boundary County Extension Office.

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