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Savings numbers support Yaphank nursing home sale

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy's bid to sell the Yaphank nursing home got a boost Monday when legislative budget analysts certified that the sale will save 46 percent a year, far more than the 10 percent required by law, though less than Levy forecast.

The Suffolk Legislature's Office of Budget Review found that the sale will net the county $15.6 million rather than $20 million that Levy projected. The budget review office also said the county would save $16.5 million to $21 million over the next five years in the budget. Levy had projected a savings of $50 million.

They also calculated a savings of $26 million to $31.5 million based on the county's annual financial statements, which include savings for items like allowances for bad debt and for post-employment benefits.

Levy called the certification "great news" and minimized the differences, saying the analysts confirmed that "savings are far in excess" of what the 1997 law requires to sell to a private operator. "That's a great debate to have because the taxpayers will benefit regardless," he said.

However, presiding officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), said, "It's not a slam dunk for the county executive," pointing out analysts found losses of $3.3 million to $4.2 million a year, making Levy's estimates of an $8 million to 10 million annual operating loss overblown. But even Lindsay, who is undecided, acknowledged "the last month hasn't gone well at all for saving the place," given the union's refusal to make concessions to cut costs.

The budget review report, along with an appraisal commissioned by the Legislature due later this week, set the stage for a showdown vote Aug. 17 over the $36 million proposal to sell the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility to private operator Kenneth Rozenberg.

Levy needs 12 votes to sell the 264-bed facility, but according to legislative sources only has nine votes in favor, three opposed and five on the fence. Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said he will recuse himself since his wife works at the nursing facility.

The county executive refused to give a head count, but said the sale in an "infinitely better position" than a month ago. "What might have been a hook for someone to hang their hat on to vote against the sale is no longer there," said Levy.

But sale opponent Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said, "The place has operated phenomenally in the past year," noting the 95 percent of the home's beds have remained full. "The level of care there is outstanding and belongs in public hands," he said.

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