The budget the city of Albany passed in June was balanced, but it wasn’t without sacrifice.
The police and fire departments saw cuts. So did the library and public works. At the time, Mayor Sharon Konopa said it was up to the council to find new revenue sources or face even more cuts during the next budget cycle.
Earlier this month, the board was presented with more than a dozen options to generate revenue, from instituting a soda tax to a utility fee. While the council agreed the city would have to find a way to come up with more cash to maintain its level of services, the question of who would shoulder that cost was a point of contention.
“If we’re going to tax people it should be the largest number of people, not single out a certain group,” Councilor Alex Johnson II said in response to the item that garnered the most discussion: the possibility of instituting a $200 annul per-bed fee on assisted living facilities within the city.
The annual fee would be paid by the facility but those facilities could pass along that fee to their elderly residents.
“That’s $16.60 a month,” said Johnson, who works primarily with seniors in his insurance business. He said the additional cost would be difficult for seniors already paying hundreds, if not thousands, a month for assisted living facilities.
City Manager Peter Troedsson explained the reasoning behind the fee to the council, stating that calls to assisted living facilities were numerous and it cost the city money whenever the Fire Department responded. He estimated that the fee would generate $200,000 per year.
During the July 21 meeting, when the possibility of a bed fee was introduced, Konopa said the $16 may be less than other fees residents in these facilities pay. This week, she elaborated on that point, stating that the cost for her in-laws in a local assisted living facility reached $11,000 a month.
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“We started at $4,600 a month for both of them in one room,” she said. “Then as their care increased, there were additional fees.”
Konopa said a fee was charged when her in-laws could no longer handle the distribution of their medication on their own and when meals were delivered to them rather than being served in the dining room.
“As my father-in-law got frail, he kept falling,” she said. “They charged us a fee for a mechanical lift, they charged $1,050 per month. In the last month he was there, they called the Fire Department four times and I always had an issue with that because they didn’t use the lift once and they were making the money on that but our Fire Department was doing the work.”
Between February and July 30 of this year, the Albany Fire Department responded to assisted living facilities more than 500 times for issues ranging from complaints of weakness to stroke to dizziness.
Jennifer Garner is a private consultant who works with families considering placing their relatives in assistant living or memory care. She’s paid independently by each family. She said she takes into account the family’s long-term plan, finances and needs before compiling information on local housing options.
And while Konopa said the fee may be paid by facilities and not passed on to residents, Garner said she doubted that would be the case.
“It’s going to be passed on to the residents,” she said. “If this fee happens it should be clear on who it applies to and where that money is allocated.”